At 5:35 a.m. we are driving through the Northeast Entrance when out the exit on the other
side a large grizzly ambles down the road and out of the Park. He notes our presence and
follows the yellow line down the middle of the road, swinging his head from side to side.
We make a u-turn and follow him as he gradually moves off the road and up the hill littered with deadfall.
Very "Northern Exposure."
We finally saw two wolves - Slight Right, a beautiful grey male, and a grey female.
Slight Right is a member of the Slough Creek Pack, and the grey female I'm not sure about.
She is very light, almost white and uncollared, and appeared sometime this spring.
Someone suggested she may be from the former Nez Perce Pack. The Slough Creek pack
wolves are dispersed right now and traveling in small groups. Slight Right has been
seen several times with the grey female and seems attached to her.
The two wolves walked through a bison herd, sniffing, probably looking for calves.
The bison stick together, challenging the wolves and a big bull faced off with Slight Right.
In the meantime, the grey female was having her own troubles. Two coyotes chased her,
nipping at her heels, racing after her. The grey female turned around and nipped back,
but her tail was between her legs and she was pushed east. They must have a den nearby.
I learned that coyotes dig more than one den and may move their pups several times.
They want to keep their dens and their pups hidden. One evening we watched dirt
flying as a coyote dug a den on a hill near Buffalo Ranch.
The grey female moves east and into the trees. Slight Right beds in the woods and we
lose them both. Occasionally, we hear howling - Slight Right looking for his companion.
Since the morning is quieting down, we make our way to Hayden Valley and the Lake area
to look for bears and the Hayden Pack. In this warm week this part of the Park is colder
with more snow, though it is melting fast converting meadows into marshes.
The Hayden Pack killed an elk on Monday morning and it's lying in a creek close to
the road, untouched, a small dome of light fur visible. Photographers camp out
near the site. The wolves do not come, perhaps wary of too many people.
We drive on to Mary Bay and Sedge Bay, and the bears elude us also.
There are lots of signs though warning of bear activity and closing trails.
Even the trail along the shore of Lake Yellowstone is closed.
We stop at LeHardie Rapids and find Harlequin ducks, a colorful but relatively
uncommon sea duck that nests in fast-flowing mountain streams. They could be
the most beautiful duck there is. From the Alaska Department of Fish and Game:
"The common name harlequin as well as the latin name Histrionicus (from "histrio" or stage player)
come from the male plumage, said to resemble the gaily colored dress of medieval court jesters.
Male harlequins are mostly a dark blue-gray, with bold accents. The face is white between
the eye and dark gray bill. Black-bordered white markings include a spot over the ear, a
streak on the side of the neck, a collar, and a bold sash from the shoulder to the breast.
In addition, the black crown is highlighted by rust and there is a large rust patch on the flank.
Females are generally a uniform grayish black, with light cheeks and spots above the eye and
over the ear. Harlequin hens resemble bufflehead females that have a singular white face patch
or, except for a much smaller size, female scoters."
Back in Lamar Valley, we saw Slight Right again tonight, moving through the sage,
still looking for the grey female.
Author - Christine Baleshta
Photography - Tim Springer
Click for larger image