Saturday, June 16, 2012
Silver Gate, Montana

    Two bison are grazing in between the cabins in Silver Gate as we cross the bridge over Soda Butte Creek one more time. Deer peek at us from the trees near the Ranger Station. The morning is warming quickly, the sun having already been up for hours. Today is not the whirlwind of wolf activity that yesterday was. We miss '06 crossing the road near Hitching Post with a stick in her mouth for the pups, but see another gray from the Lamar Canyons cross east of Soda Butte Cone. The gray meets a couple of antelope on the slope and they chase each other for a short while before the wolf disappears near Trout Lake.
   Near Amethyst Bench, a black yearling from the Mollie Pack is going after a bison calf. When the calf's mother goes back to the herd to get help, the wolf jumps in and grabs the calf, but quickly lets go when a group of bison thunders after him. The wolf drops the calf and the bulls surround the baby bison. The black wolf darts in and out of bison legs, the bulls charging and chasing him. He finally gives up and the bison take off, the cow and calf leading the way.
   We stop at the Institute to look for the coyote den when we see two black wolves traveling west on the other side of the river. Far away on Amethyst Bench, they are like two tiny dots moving across the landscape. The Mollies have been traveling across Specimen Ridge to Antelope Creek and have been seen from the turnouts near Mt. Washburn. After we leave the Park we learn the Mollies have denned south of Antelope and have pups.
   We drive up Tower one last time. The black bear sow and her two coy have been seen near Calcite, but are way in the trees when we get there. We are luckier near Floating Island Lake. The little black bear is foraging in the meadow again and this time, she has a one year old cub with her. Making our way to Mammoth, a coyote runs down the middle of the road. A ranger steps out of his vehicle and shouts and claps, and the coyote jumps off the road. But as soon as the ranger drives off, she is back on the pavement. A nursing mother, she is hunting in the grass along the road.
   Swan Lake Flats is quiet and peaceful. We stop and watch sandhill cranes wading through the tall grass and yellow headed blackbirds look for insects. We curve through Mammoth and past Rescue Creek bridge. A parade is gathering at the school grounds in Gardiner with floats and horses and decorated cars. It's rodeo weekend here and we're sorry to miss it. We stop in Livingston with horse trailers parked next to fast food restaurants, college teams bound for Gardiner. Maybe next year.

Author - Christine Baleshta
Photography - Tim Springer

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Yellowstone Experiences 2012