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Yellowstone Up Close and Personal

23 - 25 April 2010 Trip Report

Trip Report ~ by Bill Hamblin

Wolves near Canyon by John William Uhler © Copyright All Rights Reserved

~ April 2010 ~

Mount Haynes by John William Uhler Copyright © All Rights Reserved

Friday - 23 April 2010

I left work around noon and made good time until the road construction near Gibbon Falls. I got to be the first going thru, after about 20 minutes of waiting. I found Calvin and Lynette on a bison carcass on the north end of Swan Lake Flats. Apparently they had wolves there in the morning. I moved on and found Ralph at Hellroaring Overlook. He had a good day Thursday (seven or so bears, mostly blacks) but was seeing very little today. John and Pauline from the Netherlands were up and called to report a black bear at Yellowstone Picnic area. Then called on a grizzly in the rendezvous area. It was 8:00 PM before I found anything myself, I spotted a black sow with two yearlings from Hellroaring Overlook looking towards Garnett Hill. While watching these bears, a fox visited the pullout, obviously been fed there before, but really cute. After washing up at the visitor center in Mammoth, I heard hooting from an owl. The second building to the east had a great horned owl right on the top of the building. (I have been hearing that they nest there every year, Elva says she hasn't seen the nest, but the fledging's walk around on the roof before they fledge). Stayed on Mammoth Campground both Friday and Saturday night, really quiet campsite.

Saturday - 24 April 2010

I hadn't heard of much action out Lamar Valley way, so we headed for Swan Flats in the AM. They had reported a grizzly sow with four cubs of the year (coys) up there on Wednesday, so with the carcass and all we gambled and headed that way. We arrived about 5:30 AM, it gets light about 6:00 AM. We could make out one bear and at least three wolves in the low light (the carcass was about 100 yards off the road). The wolves moved west and crossed the road (had three, one black, one gray and a light gray). The bear still had the carcass, but soon departed in a rush, running for the trees. Soon we noticed the three new wolves on the carcass, a black, a gray and a light gray. I moved down the road to get a better look to the west hoping to find where the first three went. Soon the three wolves moved to cross the road. As they got to the road a ranger came along, stopped about 150 yards back and there we sat for about 10 minutes. No cars coming either way, and the three wolves in the road looking west. Soon they decided to move, and decided to come my way. The black followed the road and passed me following the centerline (about 11 feet from my window), the gray and light gray crossed on the east side of my car at about 20 feet. It was weird behavior, but later learned from Calvin and Lynette, that the first three wolves were from the Quadrant pack. The second three were from the Canyon Pack (they have been walking the roads, taking elk down in Mammoth, etc, really not concerned with humans at all (in fact have been hazed by the rangers when at Mammoth a week or so ago). The two groups of wolves disappeared, the Quadrant to the west, the Canyon to the east and moved out of sight, but howled at each other for 5-10 minutes. I headed for Lamar finding a grizzly across from Coyote Overlook about 8:30 AM. Stopping at Slough Creek, Bill and Jan radioed to say they had one of my favorite animals. They were up on Dave's Hill, so I joined them. Actually they had two grizzlies and two wolves. Apparently a winter carcass rose to the top of the Slough Creek, and a large red tagged grizzly pulled it to shore. (It was bedded around the creek for two days, until it was pulled in to shore). Anyway the large grizzly had it, a little bit smaller grizzly, also with a light red ear tag, was bedded like 10 yards away. Several times the large grizzly would walk towards the smaller one, running it off. Then the two wolves (754M and 755M) would try for a bite or two. They never got much, with the bear returning about dispatching the smaller grizzly. After several of these trips towards the smaller bear, the larger one moved off about 20 yards, the smaller one took the low route along the river and out of sight of the larger grizzly to get to the carcass. After a brief meeting, a few swats to the head and a little growling, the larger one relented to the smaller grizzly. Lots of feeding and the parts of the carcass were pulled on to land. The wolves then got a few pieces. Later the large grizzly came back and evicted the smaller grizzly again. During all of this I found another grizzly in Crystal south of the road. Meanwhile down at Boulder, Ralph got a grizzly 100 yards off the road. Apparently a bison had a still born calf which a pair of coyotes found, but lost to a grizzly. This grizzly must had been full, since it immediately dug a hole and buried the calf and proceeded to take a nap. After lunch, I went that way to find another grizzly walking north of the road and the grizzly south of the road eating the calf. Lots of bighorn sheep this year. A herd of about 30 were on the top of Junction Butte last weekend, but today moved down near the road at Yellowstone Picnic area, lots of rams and ewes in the herd. Ralph found a sleeping black bear at Floating Island Lake. We had some nice rain Saturday night, with a light dusting of snow in the higher elevations.

Old Faithful Eruption and Buffalo by John William Uhler Copyright © All Rights Reserved

Sunday - 25 April 2010

We thought the carcass on Swan Flats was pretty well gone, so we went to Lamar in the morning (actually it wasn't, people had a bear and two wolves on it early). Ralph and I spotted a grizzly in Crystal drainage from Slough Creek bathroom at the same time at 6:19 AM. At 6:45 AM I found a grizzly south of the Institute. At 7:15 AM we had a grizzly in the Slough Creek bottoms, and at 7:30 AM had a grizzly north of Long Pullout. Also had a black wolf near the Slough Creek den site (the 06 female, 255M and 254M group's this year). Heading west stopped at Boulder Pullout and immediately heard coyotes barking. Soon three Agate gray wolves (two collared males and one smaller uncollared - I think) were being escorted across the road west of Boulder Pullout just about at Curve Pullout. And on the way home, the black bear at Floating Island Lake was not sleeping, but not moving very much either.

Other News

No one has reported seeing the sow and four coy's since Wednesday, but were sighted above the Mammoth Terraces later. The eagle nest across from Coyote Overlook is still empty, but Elva says they have a new nest in the trees to the west of there. The 06 female was due Friday or Saturday, and is assumed to be in the den. The osprey nest near Fisherman's pullout is still occupied. The road construction on the way home was much better - I arrived at the area, just as they waved the southbound traffic thru, putting up the stop sign just after I got thru.

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