Trip Report ~ Bear & Wolf Sightings ~ by Bill Hamblin
17 - 22 May 2012
~ May 2012 ~
Thursday - 17 May
I left Idaho Falls around 6:30 a.m. and made good time to the park. No road construction yet and little traffic this time of year. I decided to do Hayden Valley for the first time this year. I was hoping to see the grizzly sow with two two year olds that had been reported staying around Elk Antler and Trout Creek, but no luck. As I approached Alum Creek, a large jam. I saw Don from Vermont and Paul from Tulsa, OK who were watching five of the Canyon Pack on an elk carcass, probably killed last night about 200 yards off the road. We had all three of the blacks and two grays (missing one gray and the alpha female the white wolf). I headed back towards Mammoth and had a bear jam at Roaring Mountain. A nice sized grizzly digging about 100 yards off the road. At 11:30 a.m. I went thru and at 11:45 a.m. I came upon another bear jam in the north end of Swan Lake Flats. The Quad mom was out with two two year old cubs. She was leaving what appeared to be a bison carcass (learned later, a bison died of natural causes, and she and a large boar had visited it). At 1:15 p.m. I found the collared grizzly sow with two coy's on Specimen Ridge. I ran into McNeil who told me she had recrossed the road from Junction Butte the day before and now was back on Specimen Ridge. I had viewed this from Elk Creek, then again later from Boulder Pullout. At 1:30 p.m. I spotted a cinnamon black bear in the bottom of Elk Creek. At 2:30 p.m. I found a black bear in the Slough Creek bottoms. At 3:00 p.m. I watched a black bear south of the Institute in the tree line. At 4:00 p.m. I spotted a grizzly in bear meadow viewed from the Institute. At 4:20 p.m. the grizzly sow with two coy's appeared in no bear meadow. She apparently picked up a scent from the grizzly in bear meadow, since the wind was from the east today, and immediately took the two coy's to the west and then south and over the ridge. Good viewing as she crossed two different snow patches on her journey. At 5:15 p.m. I found a grizzly in Ice Box Canyon. A small pretty grizzly with a round face that was out the rest of the day and most of tomorrow, just above the road at about 15 yards digging for something. At 6:05 p.m. the grizzly sow with one cub of the year (coy) south of trashcan. At 6:50 p.m. a grizzly north of coyote overlook viewed from little America (a long ways, thought I might see it again from Lamar Valley, but did not). At 6:55 p.m. I found a black bear north of long pullout in little America. At 8:00 p.m. we had three wolves (Mollie's pack) south of the Institute. I spent my first night near Silver Gate, and all the other nights in Tower Campground which opened on Friday the 18th.
Friday - 18 May
At 6:15 a.m. I spotted a tall grizzly on ski slope viewed from the Institute and later from coyote overlook. At 6:30 a.m. we watched a lone black wolf on Jasper Bench viewed from coyote overlook. At 6:45 a.m. howling lead us to the four wolves of 838's (Big Blaze's group) also on Jasper Bench. At 8:00 a.m. we had eight wolves from the Mollie's pack in the rendezvous area. At 8:15 a.m. I found a grizzly north of picnic area. At 9:20 a.m. we watched a black bear on Rainy Lake (I heard later that it was a sow with two black coy's). I was in a hurry to get a campsite. However, they were just opening the campground when I arrived close to 10:00 a.m. They have campground hosts from Michigan this year. They are a nice friendly couple that Lauri D. from Helena knows. They even handled out the envelopes as we passed them. At 10:15 a.m. I stopped at peregrine pullout near Tower and spotted the GPS collared grizzly with one yearling on Junction Butte. At 12:00 noon I found the grizzly sow with one coy south of trashcan again. At 3:35 p.m. the collared grizzly with two coys on Specimen Ridge viewed from boulder pullout. I saw her several times this trip, she likes the clearing south and east of boulder pullout on the skyline during the day. Then in the morning and evening she returns to the rock cliffs below that clearing. At 4:30 p.m. a bear jam near long pullout revealed a black bear sow with two coys, one black and one brown. Around 6:00 p.m. there was one black and three gray wolves on Jasper Bench (Mollies pack). At 6:50 p.m. I found a grizzly south and east of picnic area. At 6:55 p.m. I spotted a grizzly north and east of picnic area. At 7:40 p.m. we had the small grizzly in Icebox Canyon again, 10 yards or so above the road to the north. At 7:45 a.m. we watched the grizzly sow with two coy's from Thunderer pullout. She had moved down and closer to the road since I last saw her on my last trip. At 8:00 p.m. we spotted a grizzly sow with two coys on the 1st finger of Norris (this makes a total of at least 9 grizzly coy's from Junction Butte to Thunderer this year-- perhaps 11 as Jack G. and John and John from Seattle had seen a grizzly with two coy's north of coyote overlook while I was gone between trips). At 8:15 p.m. we watched a courting pair of grizzlies north of picnic. At 8:30 p.m. my last sighting was a grizzly south of the Institute out on the bench.
Saturday - 19 May
At 5:40 a.m. we had a grizzly high in A-Z meadow. At 5:45 a.m. a large grizzly moving up hill in secret passage. Both these grizzlies were spotted by John and John from Seattle. At 6:00 a.m. we watched a black bear in a clearing below A-Z and beyond Jasper Bench. At 7:20 a.m. I found a large black bear in the Soda Butte picnic area clearing. At 7:25 a.m. Anne W. had the Icebox Canyon grizzly cross the road in front of her, so we went to view it again just above the road digging for breakfast. At 9:50 a.m. the grizzly with two coys was visible again on the 1st finger of Norris viewed from Soda Butte east pullout. At 10:55 a.m. we had a black bear high in K meadow. At 11:00 a.m. we watched the grizzly sow with one coy in the steep, steep rocks just east of the clearing above and south of trashcan pullout. The cliff looked pretty bare and over 60 degree steep. At 1:00 p.m. the grizzly sow with two coy's was out in the same clearing at the Thunderer pullout. At 2:00 p.m. we had a small grizzly in Round Prairie. At 2:45 p.m. I found a dark large grizzly in penny lane viewed from the confluence and later from footbridge pullout. At 4:00 p.m. we had two black wolves east of footbridge (probably Mollie's as I think the Lamar Canyon wolves were back in the den area). At 5:25 p.m. I saw a black bear in Crystal drainage viewed from the Slough Creek bathroom. At 5:35 p.m. the GPS collared grizzly with one yearling still on Junction Butte At 6:30 p.m. I found a large black bear at Elk Creek. At 6:50 p.m. we had a black bear sow with one coy in the timber just east of the Yellowstone Picnic area. At 7:00 p.m. we watched a black bear near the Specimen Ridge trail. At 7:00 p.m. the collared grizzly with two coy's on Specimen Ridge viewed from peregrine pullout (high in the rocks below skyline). At 7:45 p.m. we watched three black wolves and one gray wolf chasing elk on the lower part of salad bowl viewed from coyote overlook. At 7:55 p.m. someone pointed out one black and two gray wolves bedded in the large clearing south and west of the Institute. At 8:35 a.m. I viewed a black bear near Tower Junction. At 8:45 p.m. I finally got to see the black bear with two black coy's near Calcite curve.
Sunday - 20 May
At 6:05 a.m. we had a grizzly north of picnic pullout. At 6:40 a.m. I found the grizzly sow with two coy's in the clearing viewed from the Thunderer pullout (last time seen on the trip). At 7:20 a.m. we watched a grizzly south and west of the confluence. At 8:15 a.m. we had ten wolves of the Mollie's pack in Crystal drainage moving east and finally over the hill heading for Lamar Valley. At 9:15 a.m. the collared grizzly with two coy's back out viewed from peregrine pullout, less than 150 yards from where they were last evening. At 10:00 a.m. I found a small black bear in the trees below Junction Butte. At 1:00 p.m. we had a large cinnamon black bear at Phantom Lake (reported for days as a grizzly by the tourists) At 1:30 p.m. the black bear sow with two cinnamon cubs was at the end of the Petrified Tree area (they were bedded and I waited for 45 minutes for them to get up and move). At 2:00 p.m. we had a bear jam in little America as the GPS collared grizzly with one yearling was north of the road and this side of the lake viewed from straight-away. The grizzly sow with two coy's was in view also at the same time still in the rocks south on Specimen Ridge. At 4:00 p.m. we had a grizzly on #2 finger of Norris. At 4:00 p.m. someone spotted a black bear on the #1 finger of Norris. At 4:00 p.m. we watched a gray wolf near footbridge pullout. A carcass had showed up in the river just east of Footbridge pullout. Lots of action most of the day with wolves coming and crossing the road, then returning across the road back to the den site. At 8:30 p.m. Lauri D. had a grizzly north and east of the Slough Creek bathroom in what is referred to as the bowl. At 9:00 p.m. my last sightings of the day was a black bear crossed the road south to north just uphill from Tower Junction.
Monday - 21 May
At 6:20 a.m. we had a grizzly on Norris. At 7:20 a.m. I watched a grizzly south of the Institute. At 7:35 a.m. Carl S. called about a grizzly about 300 yards off the road down the Slough Creek road, the second good pullout, where we had watched the golden eagle nest in other years. Carl S. also had the collared grizzly with two coy's on Specimen Ridge in sight also. At 7:40 a.m. I found the GPS collared grizzly with one yearling on Junction Butte, a long sighting but good light in the morning. It was nice to view six grizzlies all in sight at the same time. At 8:05 a.m. I thought I had a black bear, but after looking in the spotting scope discovered 838's group of wolves, two black and two gray's going up and over the clearing behind and south of Specimen Ridge. At 9:50 a.m. I was looking to the north for wolves from picnic, reports that a couple of wolves were seen on the ledge trail coming from the den forest. But I found a black wolf 779F from the Mollie's pack moving east to west and south of the road from picnic. At 12:30 p.m. we had 820F, a gray yearling from the Lamar Canyon pack just above the road to the north of footbridge, trying to cross to the carcass (mostly gone in the river east of footbridge). At 12:45 p.m. a grizzly south and west of footbridge in the sagebrush flats (someone pointed it out, and I was talking to a few people and missed it). At 4:00 p.m. we spotted a black wolf south of trashcan viewed from footbridge. I thought sure we could relocate it from trashcan, but no luck. At 5:00 p.m. I located a black bear with two cinnamon cubs in a little clearing near the top of ski slope viewed from trashcan. At 6:30 p.m. I headed to the Soda Butte cone as Sian, from the UK, reported a grizzly south of the river. Yep, and it crossed to the north just east of the cone. At 7:00 p.m. looking for the Thunderer grizzly family found a large cinnamon black bear in the same clearing she was in earlier. I guess she and the two coy's have moved on, never saw them again this trip. At 7:30 p.m. two black bears very briefly seen on the 3rd finger of Norris (could have been a sow with a yearling, but guess a courting pair). At 8:00 p.m. Lauri D. spotted a black spot in the tree line in a clearing west of the drainage viewed to the north from picnic area. Soon two wrestling bears appeared, and soon we identified them as a courting pair of grizzlies with the little one leading and the larger one following.
Tuesday - 22 May
The weather was changing for the worst today, with rain and poor visibility by mid-morning. At 6:00 a.m. we saw a grizzly heading south on the west end of Jasper Bench. At 6:15 a.m. we had 12 Mollie's pack wolves trying unsuccessfully to get a bison calf just south of midpoint pullout. At 6:35 a.m. I spotted a grizzly moving south thru the sagebrush flats viewed to the west of footbridge pullout. At 6:50 a.m. we watched a grizzly on the # 1 finger of Norris. At 7:10 a.m. we had a grizzly in the rendezvous area. At 7:10 a.m. we watched a black bear in K meadow, spotted by Lauri D. At 9:50 a.m. I spotted a dark grizzly in the bowl high south and west of the Institute. At 10:15 a.m. the collared grizzly with two coy's on Specimen Ridge viewed first from coyote overlook, then Lamar Canyon west and finally from the Slough Creek bathroom. The visibility was turning, and I watched for 15 minutes before I could identify the two coy's. With the weather not improving I headed home with no additional sightings.
Near Pebble Creek Campground there has been three bull moose, as the cow and yearling calf have moved east to the Soda Butte Picnic area. Lots of mountain goats east of footbridge and around Pebble Creek, and many more near Thunderer. Definitely two eagle chicks in the bald eagle nest south of coyote overlook. Definitely two owl chicks in the great horned owl nest viewed from Lamar Canyon east, and getting big. No ospreys on the good nest near Tower this year. I was driving between footbridge and the hitching post and encountered a golden eagle in the road with a ground squirrel (not sure if it killed it or a roadkill). A couple of elk calves have been seen, but not by me yet. Both Dunraven Pass and the Beartooth should open this Friday morning (I have heard that administrative traffic has been allowed over Dunraven, so barring a storm the road is snow free).
People seen this trip: Bear watchers: Lance from Pocatello, Margaret and Jean from the east, Lauri D. from Helena, Wayne and Maryann from Illinois, John and John from Seattle, Wayne from Washington, Tom and his wife from Maryland, and Doug M. from Gardiner. Wolf watchers: Sian from the UK, Betzi from Washington, Dan and Lauri L., Rick M., Don from Vermont, Anne W., Brian C from Oregon, Pam and Denny from Utah. Others: Paul from Tulsa, McNeil from Gardiner, Chicago Bob and his wife, Mark S. from Minnesota and the "raven gang", Mike M. from Bozeman. And a lot of others from other years of wildlife viewing.
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by John William Uhler
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