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Sunday morning blows in cold and cloudy. Elk and moose graze near the road.
A charcoal grey collared wolf guards the kill site at Soda Butte. It's not quite 7:00 a.m.
Way on top of Amethyst Peak a grizzly sow and three cubs of the year cavort on the snow.
From Dorothy's Knoll the cubs are tiny brown balls rolling and bouncing on a white blanket.
Off to the side in a grassy alpine meadow, their mother moves west, looking back encouraging
her offspring to follow. It's clear she has her hands full.
The Druids are spread out over the Lamar Valley this morning. Another kill was made near the
rendezvous site above the river. Seven Druids feed on and off, including 286F, the new alpha
female, 21M and 253 M. A couple of coyotes dart in and out at opportune moments. On the
eastern edge of Lamar Canyon, a black bear sow forages in a clearing the south side of the
river. She has a cub, but we don't see it this busy morning.
Today we hike the trail from the Yellowstone picnic area. High above the Yellowstone
River we can see ospreys nesting on rocky ledges. Marmots sun themselves on rocks and
a herd of bighorn sheep graze in the meadow. There are two young rams and 6 ewes, one
a lamb, all feeding very near the trail. We hike off the path to give them plenty of space.
In the middle of Floating Island Lake a sandhill crane is sitting on her nest. I never
see her leave the nest the entire trip despite the distractions of photographers, visitors,
and other residents of the little lake. The water is surrounded by tall, golden grass
where a coyote pounces on ground squirrels, oblivious to everything around him, and a
yellow headed blackbird flits long the marshy shore.
Back at the rendezvous site, another grizzly sow and her three cubs are enjoying the kill.
These cubs are yearlings, about 150 pounds each, and healthy looking. The business of
eating doesn't dampen their curiosity or their playfulness. They sniff around the kill
site, chase and swat at each other. Suddenly, Mom and the three cubs take off like a
shot towards Amethyst bench. There are no other bears in site, only wolves, coyotes
and the ubiquitous ravens, certainly no threat to grizzlies this size. We never
find out what caused the bears to run off and head back to our cabin. At Soda
Butte cone, a single Druid remains at the carcass.
Author - Christine Baleshta
Photography - Tim Springer
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