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A moose greeted us on our way to Lamar Valley this morning. A cow, with a defiant appearance, she didn't want to get out of the road.
Her ears pinned back, she stood in the middle of the road and waited for us to stop before she jumped off the road and into the woods. Across from Buffalo Ranch an adult grizzly foraged in the grass and dug up ground squirrel holes, looking for food. He wasn't far from the road and didn't seem afraid of people. He reminds me of the grizzly we saw last May near Soda Butte cone who spent hours digging. Near the Boulder turnout a gray wolf chased a black/charcoal wolf down a hill and into a herd of bison. At the beginning of the chase, the two fought, the gray getting the upper hand quickly. The black ran away and lay down near the bison cows who ignored him. He moved east through the sage, almost invisible, crossed the road, and disappeared. Bill Anderson told us the gray was probably an Agate, and the black was thought to be one of U-Black's group, who is believed to have denned nearby. He also told us that her new mate took down an elk all by himself last week. U-Black is quite a hunter herself - last spring we watched her chase an elk across the road in this very same area.
There was good bison calf viewing at Boulder. Lots of calves trying out their new legs and running in circles. Some nursing and some sleeping. I spotted one calf who stood all by himself looking lost or orphaned. He didn't move for quite a while, just standing in the same spot looking around and not making a sound. I thought he might be sick. A cow grazed nearby and when she finally got close to him, he started to nurse. We also saw a bison calf rubbing heads with its mother. It was funny and touching to see the affection and bonding between mother and calf. Back at Slough Creek we saw four adult wolves, three black and one gray. It's very hard to see them from that far away, but I could see black puppies running around, chasing adults, crawling over adults and logs. The "new" den, used by all four mothers, is a large hole with a mound around it. I understand one of the mothers of the four litters is the black wolf we saw last fall with a stripe down her back. She is called "Stripe" by the wolf watchers. The alpha female of this pack is also easy to distinguish - she is black with white feet, unusual markings for a wolf.
Today we hiked what we think is the Garnet Trail. It's a beautiful hike that goes northwest from the road from Tower Junction and borders the Yellowstone River canyon. It passes through rolling hills with pockets of forest. Then it dips down into a very wooded area and borders a rocky face. There were lots of bison grazing in the meadows, all bulls. At one point along the river we met four bison bulls coming up a game trail and were unable to pass. We backed up against some steep rocks and watched the four pass about ten yards away, swinging their heads from side to side, always one eye on us. Farther down the trail Tim spotted a black bear sleeping behind a log on the other side of the river. It began to drizzle and then a steady rain followed. By the time we reached the open meadow where Roosevelt Ranch holds it barbeques, we were pretty wet. When were almost to the road when we received our payoff: two black bears - one black and one cinnamon - feeding on something in the meadow. We must have been 200 yards away when they caught our scent and loped across the road and up the hill. The cinnamon sat there looking at us like a big dog. Both looked young, maybe two-year olds. We got by them with no problem, but were sorry we disturbed them. This hike was particularly beautiful because of the views of the Yellowstone River winding through lush green hillsides and meadows. Hate getting wet and cold, though.
Author - Christine Baleshta
Photography - Tim Springer
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Yellowstone Experiences 2005