trip report day 9

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    Posted by michael in tucson ( on October 03, 2005 at 15:15:19:

    In Reply to: trip report day 8 posted by michael in tucson on October 03, 2005 at 15:12:27:

    6-6-05 Day 9

    I am in the park by 5:30. Several deer greet me along the way and there is a small herd of elk cows and yearlings at the Soda Butte picnic area. This is the first time I have seen elk here. At Pebble Creek I stop to watch a cow moose. The valley is fogged in, making any sightings at elevation unlikely, so I continue on to Slough. It is quiet and very wet, but not currently raining. I spend some time talking with Rick and then with Emily. There has been so much action every morning that I have had very little time to talk with Emily. I enjoy the time we get this morning. Then the wolf action begins.

    The alpha female is spotted resting in some rocks near the diagonal forest, and a group of pups appear at the den. The gray yearling arrives at the den and regurgitates for the pups. This of course elicits lots of puppy actions. The alpha female now makes her way to the den and leads some of the pup off, over the crescent rock and into the trees. They all eventually end up in the conifer mulch and dirt under two large conifers above the horizontal forest. They are all now very visible and as they play I count eight pups, four blacks and four grays. The gray yearling has also made its way to the conifers and lies down with the pups. The adult female, Stripe, now makes her appearance and proceeds to lead six of the pups back toward the den. The alpha female now looks like she is trying to get the two remaining pups to follow her further up the hill, but they stay put. In a short time, female wolf 380 shows up and soon she and the alpha female take off to the north. Soon, I lose sight of them. The gray yearling remains with the pups that have somehow become five pups instead of just two. The gray goes off a short ways and lies down, watching the pups in what looks like continual motion.

    A group of elk start to get very nervous in the vicinity of where 380 and the alpha female were last seen. We begin looking for wolves but instead a bear shows up. It’s a large bear and in the sunlight bright blond on top but very wet and darker colored on its belly and legs. At first I identify it as a grizzly, but Emily gently corrects me, saying she think it’s a black bear. She is right. This has got to be one of the best looking black bears I have ever seen. I spend a little more time watching the bear, the gray yearling and the pups and then it is time to leave. I have had a great final morning along Slough Creek and the Lamar Valley.

    Back at the cabin Karlie and Hayden are up and ready to eat breakfast. We pack the car, have breakfast at the Log Cabin, and head west for a final drive through the Lamar and onward to West Yellowstone tonight.

    It is now raining on and off, but Hayden wants to stop at Soda Butte to look for squirrels. So rain or not we stop. We walk around and watch two ground squirrels. They are both very wet and rather rat like in appearance, but still make our boy happy. At the confluence a large black phase black bear is obviously searching for elk calves. We watch as two cow elk attempt to distract the bear, but he is having none of it, and continues the search. Without the Druids moving back and forth across the area, it appears that the elk have turned the confluence into a nursery.

    We get to see a second large black phase black bear walking in the rain along Elk Creek. At Wraith Falls, the big “pretty boy” bull elk are up and eating. We decide to stop at Albright Visitor Center and spend some time. While Karlie and Hayden look through the books, I head over to the Yellowstone Center for Resources and pick up some issues of Yellowstone Science including the newest one from Winter 2005 about the wolves. Back at Albright, Hayden and I go up to the second floor to check out the stuffed animals. He enjoyed this display last year and likes it even more this year. He insists that we go and get mom so that she can also see it. He gives her the Hayden tour of the exhibit. We try to watch a short movie about Yellowstone in the little theater, but it is just too warm in the room and we decide to leave and head south.

    At Swan Lake we see people with scopes so we stop. I recognize several people from Lamar Valley and they let me use a scope to see a grizzly. Time to get out our scope. The bear is across and above the lake. I find out from others that he has been hunting elk calves and currently has two down. He now appears to decide that a third calf would be a good idea. It is obvious to me that this bear is intent upon increasing the percentage of bear killed elk calves killed by bears all by himself. But, the scavengers thwart his plan. The ravens, magpies and a bald eagle, all demand his attention. He does not want to share with them, and runs back and forth between the two calves kicking dirt, twigs and grass on the carcasses, in a futile attempt to cover them faster then the scavengers uncover them. At one point he tries to grab the bald eagle. As I watch, I wonder when the bear is going to get a chance to eat. We decide to head to Sheepeater Cliffs to eat our picnic lunch.

    At Sheepeater, we use the bathroom (no tracks or pics), and walk over to the cliff. There is a marmot and some chipmunks, and Hayden is excited about eating lunch and watching the critters. But, the rains come and we end up eating the picnic lunch in the car. As we are finishing the sun appears, and Hayden and I go back to see if the marmots are out. Not only are two adults out but there are four baby marmots, the first time I have seen any baby marmots. All are soon in fine form whistling and running back and forth across the scree. We are soon again heading south.

    At Elk Park and Gibbon Meadow we stop and glass the edges. There are lots of bison and elk, including some large bulls, but no wolves. We ask Hayden what he wants to do and he quickly answers, see Old Faithful. So off we go toward the geyser basins. As always we all enjoy Old Faithful, happy that Hayden made the suggestion. By now, we are all getting tired, and we decide to head to West Yellowstone. We check in with Mrs. Parker at Al’s Westward Ho, and catch her up on what we have been seeing since we saw her a week ago. Once we get the car unloaded we head to the Timberline for a great dinner. After dinner Hayden gets to try out his new Bob the Builder umbrella, as we walk over to a bookstore in the rain, sleet and hail, just another typical ending to a spring day in Yellowstone.

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