Trip Report ~ Bear & Wolf Sightings ~ by Bill Hamblin
20 April - 01 May 2012
~ April 2012 ~
Friday - 20 April
With the west gate opening today, I headed up to Yellowstone and was really glad I didn't have to visit Bozeman and Livingston on the way there. At 11:00 a.m. I ran into a group of wolf watchers at Hellroaring Overlook. Apparently they had three packs there earlier in the morning: Blacktail, Agate, and Mollies. When I arrived only eight (4 black and 4 gray) of the Mollies were still in view. Apparently the Agates were on a kill when the Blacktail pack chased them off, then the Mollie's chased off the Blacktails. At 2:50 p.m. a light colored grizzly was in the Soda Butte valley. At 6:20 p.m. I found a GPS collared grizzly with a yearling cub in the rocks above Buffalo Ford viewed from boulder pullout. If I remember right, the grizzly with one cub of the year (COY) that Margaret found in the Slough Creek bottoms on June 11, 2011 had a GPS collar. At 7:20 p.m. I found a grizzly south of Dorothy's Knoll. At 7:30 p.m. I spotted a dark grizzly south of the Institute. I camped at Silver Gate most of this trip, with an occasional night in Mammoth Campground. The first three days were wonderful, highs in the mid 70's and lows in the high 30's. The rest of the trip was more like April with winds, and temps in the upper 40's to low 50's and lows below freezing with a dusting of snow in the high hills most nights.
Saturday - 21 April
At 6:30 a.m. I spotted a last year's gray pup at Round Prairie. It was eating on a year old bison carcass (hard times for this pack right now). This pup stays away from the pack quite a bit, later in the trip the Lamar Canyon's made a kill in the creek near the den area, and the pup was away, missing a good meal. Today I had a 3 DOG DAY, in fact seeing two foxes along with the coyote and wolves. At 7:00 a.m. I found a grizzly south of the Institute (lots of grizzlies south of the Institute this trip-grazing and lightly digging on Amethyst Bench). At 8:00 a.m. I spotted a grizzly north of Slough Creek viewed from the bathroom on the main road (note: the campground road is still closed right at the main road). At 8:45 a.m. we had one black and two grays of the Agate pack near Boulder Pullout. At 9:30 a.m. there were five grays and four blacks of the Mollies wolf pack south of boulder pullout. At 7:35 p.m. I spotted a grizzly near the road at Soda Butte east. By the way, we had to stay in the car for viewing as the mosquitoes were really bad (usually late May before they are out, but not this year).
Sunday - 22 April
Carma and Jennings and I were the first into the valley this morning. At 6:20 a.m. they had a gray uncollared wolf near the hitching post. I was already west of them at confluence, so set up my scope looking back to see the wolf. But a large black wolf entered my scope, really close. Yep, I had driven past the fresh spike bull carcass in the river at less than 15 yards from the road (some days you can't see the forest because of the trees). This was the first carcass that the Lamar Canyon's had for about 9 days, and they weren't timid about the cars and the road. We had 2 blacks and 2 grays, and even at 11:00 a.m. when I drove back that way, two wolves were still on the carcass (lots of pictures today). At 6:50 a.m. I spotted a grizzly south of the Institute. At 7:15 a.m. I found a grizzly in the Slough Creek bottoms. At 7:30 a.m. 9 of 16 Mollies were in view from boulder pullout. At 7:45 a.m. we had two gray and one black Agate wolves running away from the Mollie's from boulder pullout. At 6:00 p.m. I spotted a grizzly in the yellow grass meadow above Slough Creek campground viewed from the bathroom.
Monday - 23 April
At 6:45 a.m. we had 16 Mollies (8 black and 8 gray) a few hundred yards from boulder pullout. At 7:30 a.m. Dan spotted a black bear in the rocks above Buffalo Ford. At 8:00 a.m. an old friend was across the river from wrecker pullout - Scarface with his new collar, collared last fall in the big roundup of all grizzlies in the Hayden Valley because of the 2nd fatal mauling. By the way he was down to 453 pounds when captured (and was captured 3 times). He went north along the river, and after about 30 minutes was seen again heading back towards the bridge. He is looking all his 22 years of age, and the report on trapping said all his molars were broken and damaged. At 5:30 p.m. Jack had a grizzly high south of Slough, and I joined him to see it from coyote overlook. At 5:45 p.m. we had a pair of sub adult grizzlies (or a least small) grizzlies in the big clearing east and behind Jasper Bench. In 2011 a grizzly had two two year olds way into late June, running all boars off refusing to mate, my guess is that these are those bears minus mom. At 7:00 p.m. my last spot for the day was a grizzly in Crystal Creek drainage.
Tuesday - 24 April
At 6:25 a.m. I spotted a grizzly high in the bowl south and west of the Institute. An easy sighting as it was still in the snow. At 6:45 a.m. I found the gray last year's pup 20 yards from coyote overlook. It came to the road and moved towards Dorothy's Knoll ON THE ROAD ALL THE WAY, only once moving off 15 feet as a car passed. At 8:10 a.m. I spotted a black bear on Junction Butte. At 9:00 a.m. we had a grizzly in Slough Creek bottoms (been a lot of sightings of a large dark grizzly near the island of aspens and conifers west of the Marge Simpson tree in the bottoms this spring). At 9:15 a.m. I found a grizzly in Crystal Creek. At 9:50 a.m. I spotted a grizzly north and east of coyote overlook, grazing for quite a while. At 11:00 a.m. we had two grays and one black Agate wolf at Slough Creek. They were first visible in the bowl to the west and high from the bathroom. We lost them, so I headed down to Bob's Knoll with a couple folks. Later Dan and Laurie came down to join us, and fortunately I relocated them prior to their arrival (it would have looked really bad if they found them with us down there for about 20 minutes before them -- particularly when I found them on the campground road). At 3:00 p.m. the grizzly sub adults were on ski slope.
Wednesday - 25 April
At 6:15 a.m. the two sub adults were on the bench south of the Institute. At 7:30 a.m. we had 16 Mollies (8 black and 8 gray) in Slough Creek At 11:30 a.m. I found a grizzly north of trashcan. At 1:45 p.m. I spotted a large bear (watched him for a long time as the Mollies were bedded above the Institute at the same time -- Calvin and I decided on a black bear, but being out that long in the bear meadow way way south of the Institute, I would have guessed a grizzly). At 4:30 p.m. we had a large black bear in the treeline south of the Institute.
Thursday - 26 April
At 6:05 a.m. I found a black bear north of Slough Creek. At 6:25 a.m. we had a dark grizzly south of the Institute (making yesterday the last day I saw the two sub adults). At 6:35 a.m. I spotted a grizzly in bear meadow (this one I could tell was a grizzly). At 6:45 a.m. we again had the 16 Mollies wolves south of midpoint, close 300 yards, were harassing a bison herd and got a calf (which lasted less than 1 1/2 minutes with these wolves). Note: the Mollies did invade the Lamar Canyon den site Wednesday night, sending wolves running for cover - no damage apparently, as most seen after the incident and the 06 female returned to the den. At 7:05 a.m. I found the grizzly Rick had seen earlier on the ledge trail west clearing above trashcan viewed from the picnic area. At 4:35 p.m. my best spot of the trip: A collared grizzly near Specimen Ridge with two COY's, viewed from Slough Creek, but I moved closer once I spotted them.
Friday - 27 April
At 6:20 a.m. I found a grizzly south of midpoint. At 6:30 a.m. the Mollie wolf pack was southwest of the Institute, 15 strong, getting another bison calf. At 7:20 a.m. I spotted a black bear north of Slough Creek. At 8:00 a.m. we had the grizzly sow with two COY's on Specimen Ridge. Today they were out a lot, but something scared her and she moved west into a cliff area, later making a day bed for a nap. The visibility was not good most of the day with clouds, fog, and snow showers which were not slicking on the ground. At 9:25 a.m. we had another large grizzly grazing north at Soda Creek Valley east. At 4:00 p.m. I found a large black bear northeast of boulder. At 6:15 p.m. I spotted a grizzly between Jasper Bench and the salad bowl.
Saturday - 28 April
At 7:00 a.m. we had big braze and two grays of the Agate wolf pack north of Aspen bedded (were chased earlier by the Mollie's again). At 8:30 a.m. we saw a black Mollie yearling (last year's pup) south in little America (apparently did not go south with the others). At 9:30 a.m. we had the GPS collared grizzly with yearling cub on the northwest top of Junction Butte viewed from Rick's pullout. At 11:00 a.m. the grizzly sow with two COY's was back in the steep cliffs west of Specimen. At about 6:00 p.m. I located the Quad mom on Bunsen Peak viewed from Swan Lake Flats with her two large two year old cubs. So, quite a good day for me with grizzly coy's, a yearling and then two year old cubs for today.
Sunday - 29 April
At 6:45 a.m. we had a black wolf (Mollie's last year pup) south of the Institute. At 8:00 a.m. 755M and middle gray wolves of the Lamar Canyon were south of footbridge pullout. Doug from Silver Gate noticed his dog barking and turned around to see both wolves crossing the parking lot going south. At 8:30 a.m. I watched a large grizzly north of Slough Creek. At 9:20 a.m. the GPS collared grizzly with yearling was still on the northwest top of Junction Butte viewed from Rick's pullout. At 10:30 a.m. we had a grizzly in Crystal Creek viewed from the Slough Creek bathroom. At 12:00 p.m. the collared grizzly with two COY's was back on Specimen Ridge. At 2:00 p.m. heading thru the narrows going towards Lamar Valley and approaching the owl nest pullout, a car parked in the road was watching a large grizzly in the Lamar River. The car moved on and I slowly moved into the pullout. Now downstream the grizzly was 8-10 feet out in the river wading downstream. It was looking at the traffic and after about 10 minutes in the river he decided there was no traffic, wading across most of the river, swimming only a few feet, crossed the river and then the road with no one but me watching. I was surprised as the water is pretty high with a lot of white water rapids, but he was a really large grizzly and the current did not bother him. At 3:00 p.m. there was a black bear south of the Institute. At 6:30 p.m. I spotted a grizzly south of the Institute. At 6:33 p.m. my last sighting was a grizzly high on ski slope.
Monday - 30 April
At 6:30 a.m. I found two large separate grizzlies south of the Institute on the bench. They feed past each other, each doing his thing. At 7:30 a.m. I watched a grizzly low north of Slough Creek moving west. At 8:30 a.m. we had a large grizzly at Buffalo Ford, viewed from boulder pullout. This morning the wolf picture was more confusing. Big braze of the Agates was with two wolves, one black and one gray. After Rick and Laurie arrived they determined the two others were Mollie's. The rest of the day was spent hearing and rarely seeing the two other Agate wolves both north and south of Little America, trying to regroup with Big braze, but frightened of the Mollie's with him (and the other Mollie's in the area again). At 10:15 a.m. we watched the collared grizzly and two COY's back in the grassy meadow near Specimen Ridge. At 3:00 p.m. the GPS collared grizzly with one yearling made viewing a little earlier, moving northeast on top of Junction Butte. We were able to watch the family groups on Specimen and the two on Junction Butte at the same time. At 5:45 p.m. we had a large grizzly north of wrecker pullout. At 7:00 p.m. my last spot was a black bear south of the Institute.
~ May 2012 ~
Tuesday - 01 May
I was planning a short day in the park and then a quiet ride home. At 6:30 a.m. I found a grizzly south of the Institute (this was the lighter of the two from yesterday, and shortly after I left the darker one appeared also on the bench south of the Institute). At 6:45 a.m. we had a grizzly in lion meadow north of Slough Creek. At 6:50 a.m. I found a grizzly in the Slough Creek bottoms near the island of aspens and conifers. At 7:15 a.m. Bob had a black Mollie's wolf cross south to north near Aspen, just got there in time to see it across the river. At 7:45 a.m. Calvin and Lynette spotted the other 16 wolves of the Mollies above the Slough Creek bottoms. After moving a long ways, they chased elk and then singled out a bull which they killed just out of our sight. We could see one wolf had a hold as they went over the ridge, the people on Bob's Knoll saw the kill. At 9:30 a.m. we had the grizzly collared sow with two coy's on Specimen. The 9:35 a.m. I found the GPS collared grizzly on the northeast top of Junction Butte. I had a nice ride towards home until about Norris Junction. A blizzard hit and finally a closed road near Gibbon Meadows where they turned me around. Heading back towards Mammoth, now with a little snow on the road, I noticed a track of something running the road. I soon caught up to it, the now two year old black female from the Canyon pack in the road near South Twin Lake about 11:00 a.m. I headed on, finding Ed from Colorado in Swan Lake Flats. We headed for town for lunch. Coming back into the park, I heard the road was open so I tried again. In the south end of Swan Lake Flats I noticed a couple of young people I met earlier in Little America. Hoping they had the Quad mom I pulled in. They told me to look south on the road. Yep, the black female of the Canyon had taken her time but was still on the road, this was about 2:30 p.m. Eight hours after I started I made in back to Idaho Falls.
Quite a few bison calves showing up now. The roads to the south and east must be plowed now, because we saw a lot of rotaries, plows, graders heading for the Beartooth. There has been three moose in Round Prairie, a cow and calf, and a bull. Goats above the road north of footbridge. A herd 12-15 ewes and lambs near wrecker pullout, and a herd of nine rams in that area most days. One day we had two trumpeter swans flying around little America, and the next day they were at boulder lake for a little while. The Petrified Tree road is now open. People seen: Wolf watchers: Rick , Laurie, Dan and Doug from Silver Gate, Kathy, Alan and Sue, Marlene, Richard from Wyoming, Richard from Utah, Anne, and Peter for Emigrant, Thesara and Ned from Idaho Falls, Ray and Kathy. Bear watchers: Carma and Jennings from Rexburg, Idaho, Alan from Boise, Doug and Joann from Gardiner, Jack from Bozeman, and Joseph from Kalispell. Others: Dale and Elva from Oregon, Steve from Bozeman, Jim and Judy from Gardiner/Bozeman, Bob, and Carl and Dan from Silver Gate. Doug and Joann had an otter on the confluence, but I missed it. But I had one come out of the water near the owl nest in the narrows.
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by John William Uhler
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