Wednesday, May 12, 2010
   Early in the morning we wait on the hills above Slough Creek to view '06 female's den and hopefully '06 female with 754 and 755. Two black bears zigzag through the grass and sage on the slopes south of the road, foraging and stopping to play with each other. West of us in the low rolling hills stands a bison cow with a somewhat bewildered look about her. Lying next to her surrounded by ravens is a calf. It takes me a moment to realize the little one is dead. The cow stands next to the calf for a while and then lies down next to it. A pale grey coyote parks itself several yards away, watching, waiting.
   On the north slope above the curves and bends of Slough Creek the den site of '06 female is still. After a long while a black wolf weaves its way through sage up the hill from a point unknown. He heads toward the den and is greeted by '06, tail wagging. Most likely he is bringing her food and all is well. The two walk up the hill together to the den where '06 lies in front of the den. After maybe 20 or 30 minutes she walks down the hill and beds down in the grass. The other mother stands by her calf staring blankly in our direction. And then she very slowly walks away, not looking back. I turn my head and wipe tears away.
   '06 gets up and trots down the hill to a spot in front of a log where she seems to be eating something. It's hard to tell what she is doing since she's facing away from us and her head is down. Then she winds her way back up slowly through the sage, between two pine trees, up to the den. 755 and 754 have left caches all over the hillside so '06 was probably helping herself to a snack.
   Two coyotes take turns at the calf carcass, fighting off ravens. A bald eagle scares the ravens away, but then is displaced himself. We are focused on the coyotes when a couple with three small children walks up and points out a brown phase black bear running away from the carcass. "Are you watching the bear?" the man asks. We almost miss the bear that runs off quickly, diving behind the rolling hills and tall grass and we don't see him again.
   After hours of watching wolves and bison and coyotes we head back to Lamar Valley. Two black wolves are seen traveling east behind Mount Norris. Not many people see them, but Rick and Laurie seem very interested - probably because the wolves were uncollared and in the Silver Pack's new territory.
   We hike Blacktail Road today, closed this time of year because of poor driving conditions. We are greeted at the gate by a sign that warns of a "Dangerous Coyote" in the area under a simple black and white drawing and recites Park regulations against feeding animals. The road is muddy and snow covered in parts and hard work to hike, but the hike is still pretty. We meet a bison who is not happy to see us so we detour up a snowy bank and back down to the road. A small herd of elk runs up a hill away from us. We find lots of bear, wolf and coyote tracks imprinted in the road and snow.
   We turn around where the road, layered with snow, begins its steep descent. It is too deep to hike through. A coyote runs across the road and up a snowy slope into the trees. That must be the "Dangerous Coyote." As we continue the hike down, trying to avoid slippery spots, a cyclist is walking his bike up the hill on the muddy road. We chat for a minute and he asks us about the road. That would not be me, I say to myself, thinking of the snow ahead
   A black bear sow with two one year old cubs forages between the trees just east of the Yellowstone Picnic area. A ranger keeps the small crowd back as the bears climb over logs and through trees just off the road. Another black bear is asleep in a tree a little farther down the road that the ranger thinks may be the sow's sister.

Author - Christine Baleshta
Photography - Tim Springer

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Yellowstone Experiences 2010