We get an unexpected gift today: it's sunny all day. The forecast predicted snow showers and the day is simply cold and sunny, like a perfect winter day. Bison and elk are everywhere and there sides with bewildered expressions on their faces. are some bison calves -it seems like each morning there are more. Their confused faces seem to ask, "Where am I?" The little, red-brown babies cling to their mothers'
    The elk are losing their winter coats and some are so pale they appear almost white. Others are scruffy looking, like some of the bison who are also shedding. Their coats hang from their backs like pieces of woolly pelts. Soon the elk will have their sleek, brown coats with fluffy white collars and the bison their chocolate colored hides.
    As we pass through Lamar Canyon we look for the owl on the south side. The nest is there in the pine tree, but the owl, if she is still there, isn't visible. Down the road a little further, right before Slough Creek, Tim spots a fox sitting on a large boulder on the north side of the road. He is reddish brown with dark slender legs. A man who has also stopped to look tells us it's a mountain red fox, a new subspecies of red fox. The fox sits on the boulder while we take pictures, yawns and scratches himself, then disappears behind the rocks and trees.
    Near the Yellowstone Bridge, at the turnout that overlooks the Yellowstone River, we watch three grizzly bears feeding on a carcass far on the opposite hillside. It looks like a sow with two year-olds. One bear feeds on the carcass while the others graze and climb over the rocks. Three very light looking coyotes sit waiting patiently for their turn.
    We stop at Hellroaring (again) to check on the Oxbow Pack. We are able to see two gray wolves stretched out, sleeping, and another darker wolf walking around nearby, but no puppies. The turnout is crowded again and there is only a small space where one can peer through the trees and actually see the wolves.
    Since we are nearby, we decide to hike the road that borders the Blacktail Deer Plateau. The road is closed to vehicles due to poor conditions, but fine to hike. It's like walking into a peaceful meadow. We are surrounded by snow-capped mountains and only the sound of birds. We see northern flickers, Clark's nutcrackers, a woodpecker with a black and white ladder back, and a small grey bird with a yellow breast and black markings. The road is dry and most tracks we see are old, but we can distinguish coyote tracks and some wolf and bear tracks. For all the wolf and bear sign, we have never seen a wolf or a grizzly here.
    Our reward comes when we sit down to rest on some rocks overlooking a densely wooded area. Down below us in a small clearing in the pines is a black bear sow and two cubs. The cubs are at least one year old and possibly two. I think they may have been too small for two year-olds. They roll around in the grass and the mother licks one. Such tenderness reminds me of the black bear we saw last year with her cinnamon cub.

Author - Christine Baleshta
Photography - Tim Springer

Click for larger image

Yellowstone Experiences 2007