Trip Report ~ Bear & Wolf Sightings ~ by Bill Hamblin
10 - 15 April 2012
~ April 2012 ~
Tuesday - 10 April
With the west entrance still closed (opens this Friday the 20th at 8:00 AM), I went the long way thru Bozeman and Livingston. I had a nice trip with good roads all the way. I had deer, elk, and bison near the road on the way in from Livingston. I arrived about noon, got to have lunch with Jim H. and Jim C. At 4:00 PM I found a sleeping grizzly on a bison carcass in the old Druid rendezvous area. Apparently he had been there for a couple of days already. No wolf watchers out in the afternoon, but I stopped at YES pullout near the Institute. While talking to a couple from Louisiana she noticed something crossing the road. Yep, an uncollared wolf crossing to the north at Hubbard Hill. It turned out that seven more were bedded just across the river on an earlier carcass. I had missed them glassing farther out towards the trees. I headed to Hellroaring for the evening, hearing that yesterday they had a carcass with six different grizzlies on it. And the big news was that one was a sow and Rebecca from the wolf project watched it mate with a boar (a good five weeks ahead of anything I had ever observed). At 6:30 PM I located a black bear from Hellroaring. At 7:00 PM I found a black bear on Garnet Hill. And at 7:30 PM I found a grizzly moving just across the Hellroaring Creek. Today and tomorrow were beautiful with a high Tuesday of 61 degrees and 73 degrees on Wednesday in the valley. I spent the nights in Mammoth Campground still on winter hours with fees of $7.00 but down to $4.00 for us old campers.
Wednesday - 11 April
I arrived at Hellroaring just before daylight and Sian, a wolf watcher from the UK, was already watching. She soon spotted a pair of grizzlies. A small one wrestled with a larger grizzly and when they moved off the larger one followed the smaller one.
I explained that it was too early for courting (not then knowing about the mating observed earlier). But I was wrong, it was a courting pair. Then she spotted another grizzly on the right side of Hellroaring, so I started the morning with three grizzlies before 7:30 AM. I headed for Lamar Valley not stopping much to arrive at the large grizzly on the bison carcass in the rendezvous area had decided to abandon the carcass. I arrived just as it got to the aspens in the tree line. It had a back scratch, then a front and finally one more back scratch before it disappeared in the trees. The Lamar Canyon wolves had been waiting and I located 9 of 10 of them at the carcass. At 10:00 AM the wolf watchers showed me two black and one gray wolf way to the north viewed from Boulder Pullout. These were Mollies who apparently had a kill in the area from yesterday. At 10:15 AM I made a good spot on five gray Mollie wolves from Boulder Pullout going uphill north of Wrecker. At 4:30 PM I found a lone grizzly grazing/digging straight south of the Institute on Amethyst bench. It was a smaller grizzly with quite a bit of color. At 6:45 PM I found a grizzly high up and a long way away in Little Buffalo Creek. At 7:15 PM I spotted a grizzly a lot closer this side of Hellroaring Creek. It was out for quite a while, eventually crossing the creek and moving west. At 7:20 PM my last spot was a black bear on Garnet Hill.
Thursday - 12 April
It was cooler last night with fresh snow on the hill ridges. Good for me because I found a grizzly about 3/4 the way up on Hellroaring about 6:35 AM in the fresh snow heading east towards Little Buffalo. At 7:45 AM I spotted a nice sized dark grizzly walking away north of Wrecker Pullout. At 8:30 AM the same grizzly as yesterday south of the Institute, not 20 yards from where it was yesterday. At 8:40 AM I had three gray and one black wolf at the old bison carcass in the rendezvous area (probably more there, but only 4 in view). When I passed Slough Creek on the way to check out Lamar, the Mollie wolves were in the area. They were finally seen actually taking down a skinny bison in the rollers/rolling hills just west of Bob's Knob. This is the pack of 17 wolves from Pelican Creek area but has been visiting the northern range most of the fall and late winter. All 17 were visible on the kill, they then went down to the Slough Creek crossing, then only to return to the carcass then leave and recross the creek again to bed. I learned later that the wolves were actually disturbed by the people on the Knob, which was well over 1/2 mile away. This pack has always been a little skittish of the roads and people. Towards evening Bob found them bedded high in the rocks across the creek, and they made another good viewing waking up and recrossing the creek to the carcass in the afternoon. I had heard that a grizzly had crossed the road south to north near Aspen Pullout, and was surprised it was still this side of the Lamar River when I got there about 6:00 PM. A large grizzly, I think the one from the bison carcass earlier in the week at the rendezvous area.
Friday - 13 April
I caught up the Doug (from Gardiner) just west of the Aspen Pullout at 6:40 AM. It looked like he was watching a small herd of bison, but he pointed out 5 gray and 8 black wolves from the Mollies a few hundred yards south of the road. While we were watching the wolves, a car from the other way stopped at Aspen Pullout, so Doug called to them about the wolves. They hollered back that they had a grizzly north of the road. We headed there to view the grizzly who was following an uncollared gray wolf that did not cross the road. It ended up that the final wolf count was 8 grays and 8 blacks south of the road plus the gray north for a total of all 17 again. At 7:55 AM the grizzly south of the Institute was out again in the same spot. It seems to come out for the morning then heads for the trees for a midday nap, and is out again in the afternoons. At 11:30 AM I found a grizzly behind Jasper Bench and before the salad bowl. At 3:20 PM I found my first bison calf of the year near the Institute.
Saturday - 14 April
At 6:40 AM I spotted a grizzly in the Crystal Creek drainage. At 7:55 AM I found a grizzly coming off Jasper Bench moving east. As I watched this grizzly, I soon realized that it was the grizzly seen earlier in Crystal. It put on a show and crossed the road south to north near Hubbard Hill. Then recrossed the road to the east and recrossed the road near picnic area. Later in the afternoon I heard of a grizzly crossing the road in Round Prairie, so it had continued to the east. Lots of photos taken of him today. I had not found the black bear with two yearling cubs on Garnet Hill this trip but at 3:00 PM I located them back of Little Garnet (behind and slightly east of Garnet). At 3:20 PM a large black bear reappeared in a clearing somewhat close to Hellroaring Overlook. Apparently it had been out earlier in a clearing that runs all the way to the double pullouts to the east. At 4:35 PM 755M of the Lamar Canyon pack was south of the river at picnic area and moving east again seen from confluence. At 5:45 PM we had a wet black bear on the road near the double pullouts known as Lower Hellroaring.
Sunday - 15 April
At 8:30 AM I found a sleeping wolf in Round Prairie, it turned out to be 755M. At 9:00 AM Laurie and Kathy had the other nine wolves of the Lamar Canyon pack on the lower part of Mount Norris towards Cache Creek. At 9:30 AM David from Bozeman found the grizzly south of the Institute in the same place (it wasn't' seen yesterday).
I had one THREE DOG DAY with a fox near the Yellowstone Picnic area. Almost all the bull elk have dropped their antlers except a few rag horns and most of the spike bulls still have theirs. The Great Horned Owl is still on the nest at Lamar Canyon east. Floating Island Lake is completely open water now and a few sand hills have eyed up the site for possible nesting. Wolf 471F, the white collared wolf from the Agate Creek pack was found dead near Calcite. Had six mountain goats north and east of Footbridge Pullout. I found my first kestrel, northern harrier and osprey (on the nest just coming into Lamar Valley from the west). One snowshoe hare near mammoth, now mostly brown. They have the closure up at Footbridge pullout for the Lamar Canyons (same as other years - closed from the confluence to Soda Butte Cone, with no stopping, standing or walking between Footbridge and Hitching Post pullouts). There were three snow geese on the Blacktail Ponds (no one can ever remember seeing snow geese in the park). Marmots visible at narrows east and Floating Island Lake. People seen: Bear watchers - Margaret from Bozeman and David from Bozeman, and Doug M. from Gardiner. Wolf watchers: Jeff from Alberta, Alan & Sue from Colorado, Laurie, Rick, Sian from the UK, Doug(from Silver Gate), Kathy, Bob and Elizabeth from Illinois I think. Others: Jim and Judy from Gardiner/Bozeman, McNeil, Dale and Elva from Oregon, Bob from Gardiner.
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