August 12, 2010

Bison, and coyotes, and bears! Oh, my!

Afternoon walk

We saw all kinds of creatures during our vacation. A herd of bison, grazing in a valley. Coyotes trotting across a field at dusk. A young grizzly bear wandering through the woods. Deer grazing in a meadow. Bighorn sheep picking their way across a rocky slope. The glimpse of a wolf moving along a treeline. Herds of elk, a single moose, a black bear cub, a bald eagle in a dead tree. And of course, snakes, slithering along rock warmed by hot springs, absorbing the heat into their own bodies.

At several of the pull-offs, there were people who had high-powered telescopes set up to look at wildlife, and they were quite nice about letting me have a look. We were at the northeastern edge of the park one evening, when we passed a small group of people clustered on a rise, all with binoculars and scopes. I walked over to ask, “What are you all looking at?”

“It’s a bison carcass,” said an older man. “Here, have a look.”

When I looked through the scope, I saw a big dark lump. A dead bison. Then I saw another dark lump, something moving. The second lump lifted its head and looked right at me. A grizzly bear!

“There was a wolf earlier,” the man said grinning.

At another pull-off, a dozen or so people were gathered above a valley that stretched for miles, with a stream winding its way through the bottom. I could see a bunch of elk standing in the stream, clustered together, all facing out, none of them moving. “That’s a defensive posture,” said the nature guide who was scanning the treeline with his telescope. “I’m guessing there’s a wolf about.”

We saw the most wildlife at dusk, of course, sometimes when we were driving along the road and other times when we were hiking along the trails. Signs at the entrance of the park warned us to stay away from the wildlife, but that was almost impossible. It’s hard to ignore a bison when he’s standing on the road a couple feet away from your car. After our first day in the park, I found myself scanning the landscape constantly, whether we were in the car or on a trail, just to see what creatures might be out there.

King of the road


Leslie F. Miller said...

Ain't wildlife grand?

Lomagirl said...

Sounds like you saw the big 5 of the park and then some. I usually just see the big 4-H, but this vacation we saw a Grizzly, moose, mountain goats, deer, and a coyote. Oh, yes, and swarms of mosquitos- the worst I've ever seen.

Bardiac said...

Wow, sounds like you had a GREAT trip!!

Bison are just amazingly big. Amazingly!

liz said...


Lilian said...

I think that eagle (or some descendant of it) lives permanently on that dead tree :-) (close to the Madison entrance, right? We passed it every single day).

We saw tons of wildlife too back in 2003, but not as much as you did, at least not in Yellowstone. We visited 7 National Parks then, so we saw bats at the Carlsbad Caverns, elk and other kinds of "deer-like" animals in the Rocky Mountain National park, a red fox in one of the roads at the Grand Canyon, but nothing can compare to how much wildlife we saw at Yellowstone. I really want to go back there with the boys (Kelvin was 15 months).

Jennifer said...

Score on the grizzly. I'd been going to Yellowstone for literally decades before I finally saw one!