My theory

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Posted by Ballpark Frank ( on 11:07:19 10/01/16

In Reply to: Bechler region posted by Steve from Rexburg


I did a bit of research on your question, consulting the Resources and Issues guide, and got skunked. In the section where they have FAQ's for the different regions of the park, they don't cover the Bechler area (evidence of the lack of visitation in Bechler, which is part of its appeal). They also don't have a section on climate.

I believe climate is the "smoking gun". I have spent a fair amount of time in the Bechler, including a weeklong horse trip and many backpacking trips. I know I have never seen bison out there, but I have also noticed distinct lack of other ungulates, like deer, elk, and pronghorn. The only ungulate I have seen has been moose, but infrequently. We had a literal moose "family" (bull, cow, and calf) in our horse camp just north of where you emerge from the forest into Bechler Meadows on the south end. I have heard elk bugling in the fall, while day hiking to Dunanda Falls, but did not see them. I suspect they were west of the park boundary.

My theory is that the heavy annual snowpack and resulting ephemeral marsh that forms in Bechler Meadows is the culprit. I have been told that the Bechler area receives more snow than any other part of Yellowstone. I have seen photos taken in Bechler Canyon by some rangers in winter that showed an amazing amount of snow. I have skied to Shoshone Geyser Basin from Old Faithful, and noticed the closer we got to Shoshone Lake, the deeper the snow got. This was in late February, and we had to deal with a snow layer when we crossed Shoshone Creek that had to be at least 5 or 6 feet deep, maybe even deeper.

I am told that Bechler Meadows turns into a veritable lake in late spring and early summer, after all that snow melts. I was told that the accumulated water becomes a massive mosquito breeding ground. I have never been in the Bechler before August, so I do not have firsthand knowledge. While walking from Bechler Ford to Dunanda Falls in mid-August, I noticed a plethora of remnant bogs. By that time, they had turned to dusty artifacts, but still had the capability of breaking the leg of any unfortunate critter that stepped in it.

Given the conditions in Bechler Meadows during calving season and spring green-up, it is hard to imagine ungulates populating the area. I suspect the moose we saw may have wandered in from beyond the boundary, but if any animal is suited to the seasonal "Lake Bechler", it would be the long-legged marsh loving moose.


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