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Trip Report

Bear and Wolf Sightings ~ by Bill Hamblin and RandalH and John Uhler

15 - 17 April 2011

Yellowstone Wolf ~ © Copyright All Rights Reserved Gerry Hogston

~ April 2011 ~

Yellowstone Buffalo  ~ © Copyright All Rights Reserved Gerry Hogston

Friday - 15 April by Bill Hamblin

I left work at noon and made great time to Yellowstone. The weather was suppose to be unsettled with snow and rain 50% all weekend with a high of 35 and lows in the 20's. However, it never froze at night (at least in Mammoth Campground where I stayed both nights), was 51 degrees on Saturday and only a few rain drops on Sunday. A bit breezy on the way up, I saw a lot of hawks, a couple kestrels, ravens, bluebirds, sandhill cranes, and an osprey in the nest in Island Park. Lots of snow in the west side of the park. Almost bare in Mammoth, and Hellroaring was clear about one quarter the way up. I couldn't find anything but elk and bison today.

Saturday - 16 April

I left early but heard no howling before daylight. Calvin and Lynette had a fox near the Yellowstone Picnic area. Others had howling in the bottom of Slough Creek and answers in Crystal Drainage. They had seen two pups at Slough, and assumed they crossed the road to the south. I found them (eventually 6 of 7 of the Agate wolves on what looked like a fresh elk kill). This sighting was about 1 mile away, but they stayed close to the carcass for hours. I also found my only bear of the weekend above Slough Creek Campground. A large grizzly having a little trouble with the snow. He was "post holing" thru the snow, mainly breaking through every other step or so. He rested often and sacked out when he got to some clear ground under a few trees. He bedded most of the day there, but moved to the east around 5:00 p.m. Quite a few coyotes today, so had my first THREE DOG DAY. A few of the ponds have some open water and they are filled with ducks and geese.

Sunday - 17 April

I left Mammoth Campground at 5:12 a.m. My first wolf sighting was just before 5:13 a.m. A lone gray wolf crossed the road in the curve just out of the Campground exit. Had two wolves on yesterday's carcass in Crystal Creek Drainage. I haven't gone further east pass Slough Creek, so I went east into Lamar. Laurie & Dan had the two adult males and a gray yearling just north of the Institute. Close viewing for a while then we lost them going north way above Coyote Overlook. Lots of people in the park. Wolf watchers: Rick, Laurie and Dan, Calvin and Lynette, Kathy, Alan and Sue, Doug from Silver Gate, Ray and Kathy. Bear Watchers: Larry from Utah, Steve from Bozeman, Ed and Bobbie from Jackson, and Cliff. Had a moose in Crystal on Saturday and four golden eagles on the carcass when the wolves and coyotes left.

Old Faithful Visitor Center in Spring by John William Uhler Copyright © All Rights Reserved

Friday - 15 April by Randal H

Well, I wasn't the first car through the gate at 8:00 a.m., but according to the guys at the Yellowstone Association book store at the UGB, I was the first official purchase of the 2011 summer I have that karma working in my favor :)

Spent the first hour and a half working the Madison, getting pictures of bison and elk. Didn't get anything I'd consider a home run shot, but hopefully there will at least be a few worth sharing once I get home, get the memory card(s) downloaded and start Photoshopping stuff.

Finally broke off from the Madison and headed in to the Upper Geyser Basin. It may have been the first day, but the bison between the Midway and Upper basins are already in mid-summer form when it comes to snarling traffic. There have been reports the last 2-3 days of a couple griz inhabiting the Black Sand-to-overpass region. Since I knew this and bothered to try looking, they, of course, were not there this morning.

Got to Old Faithful a touch before 10:00 a.m. -- John's picture will suffice for what conditions are like up there. I took several just like it, as well as of some of the 10+ foot snow walls out in the upper lot. There's enough snow blocking lines of sight and such that I actually became a tad disoriented trying to get out of the UGB. Nothing overwhelmingly exciting to report on the basin, but then I didn't stick around too long, mostly just gave myself a tour of the new visitor's center since I'd never made it back in to check it out after last August's grand opening. VERY nice facility for those who haven't seen it yet. The kids' area I think will be a big hit in the summer months.

Left the UGB and drove back to West...another buffalo jam between Upper and Midway. Got to wave out the window to Yellowstonegirl as she was on the other side of the jam heading in to the Old Faithful area. Also a coyote running off of Porcupine Hill just north of the Mary Mountain trailhead parking area.

Grabbed the wife and kids from the hotel and hit the Wolf and Grizzly Recovery Center. First time I'd been there, but we thought Sierra, our 2 1/2 year old might enjoy it. She growled to the bears and was pretty oblivious to the wolves, so maybe a year too young. That said, those who have been there may want to check back in later this summer. Supposedly there will be an eagle aviary and "Phase I" of a river otter display added by year's end. Both will be welcome additions that will only add to the facility.

Cruised back in to the park, encountering much the same as the morning, but adding a Trumpeter Swan approximately half a mile west of the Madison bridge. Of course, there were no pull-outs remotely close in either direction :(

From Madison to Norris was pretty devoid of wildlife sightings for us. Whether this was because there was no wildlife, or because the snow berms on both sides of the road are so high in most places that an adult bison could easily hide unseen behind them, I leave for conjecture. There is a LOT of snow in the park.

After a dinner of BBQ chicken and bacon pizza and a grocery run, we made one more trip in as light snow was falling in West. It was a good decision. At the pullout a few hundred yards south of the Fountain Flats turnoff, a few cars and several folks with binoculars were gathered. The center of attraction was a grizzly bear and a pair of wolves having a battle of will over who should have dibs on a carcass. He'd chase one off, the other would shoot in and try for a bite, only to have the bear run in and chase the other off. Someone on site said there'd been a third wolf, but two was all we saw in the dying light of opening day. I know exactly where I plan to be at sunrise on the second day of the 2011 summer season...

All in all, a good start to the 2011 season.

Moose in Winter ~ © Copyright All Rights Reserved Gerry Hogston
Moose by Lamar River Bridge

Friday - 15 April by John William Uhler

Yellowstone Wolves ~ © Copyright All Rights Reserved Gerry Hogston

The west entrance was opening this morning and I always love to be in the park on opening day. I called my daughter Tamra and had her roust up our two grand daughters so we could head to the park and we could show them some of Yellowstone.

The weather was okay, partly overcast and spitting on us now and then, but nothing major. We had a nice drive to West Yellowstone and made a pit stop there before entering Parkadise. There was a lot of snow in West Yellowstone, it still looked like the arctic.

We headed east into the park and had a nice drive through the lodge pole pines and saw a few buffalo along the Madison River on the north side. No eagles on the nest and just one trumpeter swan on the Madison. Not a lot of traffic in the park as it still looked and felt pretty much like winter instead of spring.

We had a few bison on the road slowly meandering along and the kids enjoyed watching them as we crept by. It was nice to see and hear their excitement at seeing the wildlife. We saw a few elk but they were a ways off on our drive from Madison Junction to Old Faithful.

Our plan this trip was to head to the Upper Geyser Basin and show the kids the new Old Faithful visitor center and a few geysers. The kids were pretty amazed to see the steam in the valley across Fountain Flats. As we were driving there were a few cars pulled over in the pullout just past Fountain Flats Drive. We pulled in and joined the fun. The folks had just been watching a grizzly bear eating on a winter killed bison. It had just moved off into the trees so we did not see it, but Bill Carr had some great photos of it and he shared them with us. It was a great looking great bear! Another friend had some photos of some wolves that he was lucky to see coming down and crossing the road and they were great photos also.

We enjoyed the pictures and chatting. The wind was cold so the kids and Tam headed back to the van while I chatted a little more with the folks on their wildlife sightings and experiences in the park. I bid them farewell and we continued our journey south.

When we pulled into the Old Faithful area it started to snow flurry on us, a nice spring welcome to Yellowstone! We headed to the visitor center and the kids really enjoyed the new displays for children and the new hands on approach. We toured the whole building, all the displays, and viewed a movie on the park. We were pleased and impressed with the new visitor center and it was worth the wait to see it finally finished.

One thing they did not plan on, was the amount of snow they get in the area and how it would come off the large steep roof. They did not plan on the amount and where it would go. There were very impressive snow shoots above, over, and all around the entrances. Next year they will be better prepared.

Black bear cubs by John William Uhler Copyright © All Rights Reserved

We next walked out to the Old Faithful viewing area. We had some time so we walked over to the Old Faithful Inn. There was too much snow and no sidewalk clearing so we couldn't get close enough to show the kids the inside. The Inn is my favorite building in the world. We will show them the inside next time.

It was approaching time for the eruption of Old Faithful so we headed back over that way. Just then a friend came walking by in the opposite direction and told us the Beehive indicator was going off. Se we all headed over to a nice Beehive viewing area. The path was covered with a few feet of snow and I did break through a few time and did my own post holing on the way over. There was another old friend waiting there for us and it was nice to see Frank. We greeted, chatted and found some nice spots to view and take some photos of Beehive. There was a nice group of folks there to watch Beehive. Most have never heard of Beehive geyser but when we told them that it was much more impress than Old Faithful, they tagged along and they were not disappointed.

The kids were impressed with Beehive and then we made our way over to the main trail. Just before we got to the end, Old Faithful erupted. We watched and chatted. Now the kids had not only seen Old Faithful but the much more impressive Beehive geyser.

We said goodbye to our friends and they headed to get some eats and we headed north towards Madison and home. We had a nice easy drive to Madison and West. A few bison, a few elk and ducks, no bears or wolves... next time. The kids were tired from all the excitement, fun, and running around and nodded off as Tamra and I drove and headed south and home. It was great to be back home with family and friends!

Until next time my friends. Have fun with family and friends and take care and enjoy!

That's my cousin ~ © Copyright All Rights Reserved Gerry Hogston
Hey, that's my cousin!
Yellowstone Wolves ~ © Copyright All Rights Reserved Gerry Hogston
Yellowstone Bighorn Ram ~ © Copyright All Rights Reserved Gerry Hogston
Yellowstone Wolf ~ © Copyright All Rights Reserved Gerry Hogston
Yellowstone Wolves ~ © Copyright All Rights Reserved Gerry Hogston
Coyote mousing at Nature Trail ~ © Copyright All Rights Reserved Gerry Hogston
Coyote Mousing by Nature Trail
Mouse at Nature Trail ~ © Copyright All Rights Reserved Gerry Hogston
Mouse by Nature Trail watching the Coyote
Yellowstone Sunset ~ © Copyright All Rights Reserved Gerry Hogston

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