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Yellowstone National Park 2013 Trip Reports

Trip Report ~ Bear & Wolf Sightings ~ by Bill Hamblin

26 March - 09 April 2013

Yellowstone Wolf ~ © Copyright All Rights Reserved Gerry Hogston

~ March 2013 ~

Moose in Winter ~ © Copyright All Rights Reserved Gerry Hogston

Tuesday - 26 March

The roads were dry all the way as I went up the long way thru Bozeman and Livingston. The trip took about five hours and lots of deer on the roads from Livingston into Gardiner. More snow on the ground than last year, but still a whole lot less than normal. I arrived at Hellroaring Overlook to people watching six of the Junction Butte pack that had just killed and eaten a badger. Four black and two gray wolves in sight today with a little wolf howling thrown in. I did have a marmot on a rock near Blacktail drive. I spent all my nights except one at Mammoth Campground and one night at Silver Gate this trip. The lows were between 28 and 35 except for the last two nights were chilly at 16 degrees in the morning. Had rain one night and very light snow two nights.

Wednesday - 27 March

At 11:00 a.m. 755M from the Lamar Canyon pack was spotted in Little America. He is all by himself now since the 06 female was spot legally in Wyoming. He is looking for female company and howls a lot making it easier to find him with the scopes. At 11:30 a.m. four black and three gray wolves from the Junction Butte pack came from Hellroaring over to Mom's Ridge and were spotted from Boulder. They were howling back at 755M which helped in locating them. At 2:30 p.m. I spotted a black bear on Garnet Hill.

Thursday - 28 March

At 1:35 p.m. I located a black bear on Garnet Hill where the Fish Den and very close to yesterday's sighting. At 2:45 p.m. two black and one gray Junction Butte wolves were spotted from Hellroaring Overlook and a fresh carcass (later determined to be a yearling elk). It should be noted that the wolf winter study is going on now (March 1 thru March 31 -when each of the winter range wolf packs are studied - two volunteers with a government vehicle, telemetry and scopes spend 13 hours a day locating and watching their pack). Towards evening I returned to Hellroaring Overlook to learn that I just missed a cow moose walking down the road heading west. However, I was rewarded as the yearling calf soon cut below the pullout and passed within 10 yards on the way to catching up with the cow.

Friday - 29 March

At 7:15 a.m. the howling gave away the location of six Junction Butte wolves from Hellroaring Overlook, three black and three gray this morning. At 8:30 a.m. the black bear was in view on Garnet Hill. A few golden eagles flying around Hellroaring today. Quite a few mountain goats in the mountains to the south and east of Round Prairie.

Saturday - 30 March

Yellowstone Wolf and Buffalo ~ © Copyright All Rights Reserved Gerry Hogston

Had two white snowshoe rabbits leaving the campground this morning. In the following days they would be inside or near the entrance to the campground, slowly getting more gray losing their white color. I also had owl hooting at the Mammoth Visitor Center this morning and one night later in the week saw one of the Great Horned Owl's that are nesting near there again this year. Note: nothing in the owl nest at Lamar Canyon east this spring. At 7:00 a.m. a collared grizzly on an old carcass as confluence east pullout. Cliff B. told me that he had been watching it for 4 or 5 days prior and showed me my first grizzly of the year. From 8:00 a.m. to almost 11:00 a.m. we had some of the best wolf watching of the year. Five of the Junction Butte pack were south and west of Boulder Pullout at about .5 mile howling. To the east in Little America was 755M howling. And soon Sian found the black pup from the Junction Butte pack across the river to the north. The pup finally came close to Junction Butte and howled also. The old idea that if the spotting scopes are pointed in different directions they don't have anything was definitely wrong this morning. The pup howled the most, but was confused with the group howling of his pack and the lone howl of 755M and then also afraid of the road which he would have to cross to join them. I returned to the area in the late afternoon and the same situation was happening. Less howling but the pup and the Junction Butte five were still in sight. 755M was still to the east and north but wasn't seen. This black pup has a mind of its own, the regulars say it sometimes goes off by itself or lags way behind the others. At 3:00 p.m. the black bear was visible on Garnet Hill.

Sunday - 31 March

A little history first - back in December an adult bison fell into the Blacktail Ponds. After a couple of hours, a ranger shot him because they can never get out of the pond. Sometime in late March it rose to the surface. This year’s carcass was really close to the road, about 30 yards from the parking lot. At 6:15 a.m. a small grizzly was just leaving the carcass heading to the north. The grizzly had two coyotes accompanying it on its travels this morning. At 8:00 a.m. Sian called me to tell me they had a grizzly to the south of curve pullout. I arrived just as it hit the tree line, but nice viewing going thru the trees. At 9:30 a.m. someone spotted the first bison calf of the year at Boulder Pullout (pretty early for bison calves, reviewing my notes the previous earliest sighting was April 13th). At 10:00 a.m. 755M actually passed within 75 yards of the new calf and her mother, not even noticing they were there. At 3:15 p.m. three black and three gray Junction Butte pack wolves in sight at Hellroaring Overlook. At 4:00 p.m. a black bear on Garnet Hill.

~ April 2013 ~

Monday - 01 April

The road construction between Tower Junction and Chittenden Road started this morning. Lots of heavy equipment and sand/gravel going that way. At 6:10 a.m. we had a grizzly on the carcass at Blacktail Ponds. This looked like the same grizzly as last year at this time. He leaves just before first light and crosses the road going to the south. At 7:40 a.m. a black wolf of the Junction Butte pack returns to the carcass from yesterday at Hellroaring. Today was the warmest day of the trip, getting to 57 degrees in the afternoon. It brought out a marmot on the rock at Lamar Canyon east.

Yellowstone Big Horn Ram ~ © Copyright All Rights Reserved Gerry Hogston

Tuesday - 02 April

At 6:10 a.m. a grizzly was on the carcass at Blacktail Ponds. He left before daylight again crossing the road and heading south. At 6:15 a.m. 755M came into the carcass at Blacktail Ponds for a few bites. We have been hearing sandhill cranes for a few days, and today they began to be seen, a pair near the Blacktail Ponds this morning. At 9:30 a.m. six wolves of the Junction Butte pack in view at Little Cottonwood drainage to the west of Hellroaring Overlook (in view from lower Hellroaring or the double pullouts east of upper Hellroaring). At 6:45 p.m. we had a grizzly near Little Buffalo Creek viewed from Hellroaring.

Wednesday - 03 April

It is now getting light about 6:45 a.m. At 5:40 a.m. two grizzlies at Blacktail Ponds. As is usual one had the carcass (the one that crosses the road and goes south) and a second who did not get to the carcass and moved off to the north. We had close wolf howling this morning from two different wolves. Bob from Utah had two gray wolves near the road coming out this morning. We only saw one gray but heard the second wolf across the road and to the south. At 6:30 a.m. 755M comes to the carcass at Blacktail Ponds. Soon after he met one of the grays and they moved off together. We guess that they met during the night and they were seen together in the next few days. 755M has been looking for a female to be with, and it looks like he found one. In the next day or two the gray was identified as a female wolf probably from the 8 Mile pack. At 7:55 a.m. six Junction Butte wolves, three black and three gray, were visible from Hellroaring Overlook. At 9:15 a.m. we had a grizzly in view from Hellroaring Overlook. At 10:00 a.m. a wolf treat for the northern range as the Canyon wolf pack was in view near Tower Junction. Sian found them bedded on a small hill north of Elk Creek. 712M the alpha male, the white alpha female, 831F, one adult gray and two gray pups were staked out on the ridge until they got up hours later and moved over the ridge and out of sight. The Canyon pack currently has eight wolves, so six of eight were in view this morning.

Thursday - 04 April

First antelope viewable in the park this morning from Hellroaring Overlook. By the end of the week they could be seen all the way to Slough Creek and Crystal Creek drainages. Also the amount of elk was increasing every day and lots viewable all the way to Slough Creek (none to speak of in Lamar Valley yet). At 5:45 a.m. as usual, the grizzly on the carcass at Blacktail Ponds left the carcass and crossed the road and headed to the south. At 5:50 a.m. a second grizzly was seen in the early light, it headed north to the tree line and out of sight. At 9:00 a.m. Doug M. from Silver Gate called to say he had a black bear family on Garnet Hill. A black sow with two brown yearling cubs near the Fish Den (this group was out a lot in 2012 preferring the Petrified Tree area). At 6:30 a.m. Sian showed me a carcass at about 3 1/2 miles from the Children's Fire Walk to the west. At that range it was only viewable because a bald eagle was on it. Soon 755M and his new gray female appeared for a few minutes of eating before bedding out of sight.

Friday - 05 April

Yellowstone Wolves ~ © Copyright All Rights Reserved Gerry Hogston

I arrived early at Blacktail Ponds this morning to eventually find three separate grizzlies in the area. Before I had enough light to see, I heard bones cracking and ice breaking on the carcass. Then I noticed a black object that was only 20 yards away from the road and it moved. As the light improved a loud grunting grizzly on the carcass, the close grizzly moved off 100 yards or so and was growling, and a third smaller but tall and lighter grizzly came across the ice to the carcass area. Soon the grizzly on the carcass left the carcass crossing the road (then paused as if he didn't really want to leave it to other bears, then proceeded on out of sight). The third and smaller grizzly ran to the carcass to feed. The 2nd grizzly that was so close went the long way around the first pond and then came to the carcass. The 3rd smaller grizzly gave the carcass to the 2nd grizzly. All three grizzlies got to the carcass to feed for a while. The carcass was now out of the water and not much left on it. At 7:55 a.m. six wolves from the Junction Butte pack in view from Hellroaring Overlook. At 7:55 a.m. a dark grizzly crossed the clearings to the west viewable from Hellroaring Overlook. At 2:30 p.m. Bob L. stopped in a blizzard to tell me a wolf had an elk in the river at confluence (Soda Butte Creek and Lamar River). I headed that way as the roads had 2-3 inches of new snow on top of wet roads. As I got downhill from Hellroaring Overlook the roads turned to just being wet. When I got to the confluence the calf elk was in the middle of the Lamar River and middle gray of the Lamar Canyon wolf pack bedded across the river at 50 yards. During the night middle gray disposed of the elk calf. At 7:00 p.m. I spotted a black bear on Garnet Hill. At 8:00 p.m. the 1st and 3rd grizzlies reappeared at the carcass at Blacktail Ponds. The 1st grizzly was the bigger and crossed the road from the south to assume his position on the carcass. The smaller taller light colored grizzly just out to mill around close to the carcass as the larger grizzly controlled the carcass. In the dark at Mammoth visitor center, a great horned owl perched on a dead tree and hooted away.

Saturday - 06 April

No bears at Blacktail Ponds as the carcass was just bones now. Interesting to know, that another two year old bison fell into the same place in the pond this afternoon and after 3-4 hours drowned. At 7:30 a.m. the howling at Hellroaring helped us locate the six Junction Butte wolves (three black and three gray) as they headed east this morning. They seem to always howl just before they move in the morning. At 11:25 a.m. we had a black bear on Garnet Hill. At 1:30 p.m. we had a second black bear on Garnet Hill. Also at 1:30 p.m. the black bear with two brown yearling cubs was also visible at Garnet Hill. Around 2:00 p.m. Margaret from Bozeman found two of the Junction Butte wolves on a fresh kill (not there in the morning) near the tornado drainage viewed from Hellroaring Overlook. At 6:00 p.m. Kathy L. called on the radio and had a few wolves on the carcass, and a grizzly in the sagebrush. After a while the grizzly claimed the carcass a large bull elk. On the way back to Mammoth Campground for the night a new carcass had been having activity in the Blacktail Deer Creek .5 mile east to the Blacktail Ponds. This carcass was out of sight but only .25 mile from the road.

Sunday - 07 April

At 6:30 a.m. a black wolf that turned out to be 890M from the Junction Butte pack was close to the out of sight carcass at Blacktail Deer Creek. At 6:30 a.m. a dark grizzly seen leaving the new carcass area. At 6:40 a.m. I found a grizzly on the old carcass 3 1/2 miles west of the Children's Fire Walk. At 7:00 a.m. six Junction Butte wolves bedded near the carcass at tornado drainage. My first and only THREE DOG DAY as a pretty light fox from Boulder Pullout this afternoon. At 2:30 p.m. a black bear on Garnet Hill. At 3:15 p.m. the black sow with two brown yearling cubs was on Garnet Hill.

Monday - 08 April

Coyote mousing at Nature Trail ~ © Copyright All Rights Reserved Gerry Hogston

13 degrees and fresh grizzly tracks at Blacktail Deer Creek this morning. I arrived around 6:00 a.m. and according to Cliff B. missed a grizzly leaving the Blacktail Deer Creek carcass around 5:45 a.m. But at 7:00 a.m. a second grizzly left the carcass area heading uphill and towards the tree line. At 7:25 a.m. a 3rd grizzly was seen also leaving the carcass area. At 8:30 a.m. Sian was looking for the Junction Butte wolves that had been seen earlier in the Crystal Drainage. From Lamar Canyon west she called with a grizzly on a bison carcass in Crystal. I am guessing that the bison died on its own, and the grizzly found it before the wolves. The grizzly's mussel was red and it simply laid on the bison carcass and the wolves tried to move the grizzly away. It was a nice sized collared grizzly and it had no intention of leaving or sharing the carcass. Eventually I counted five wolves of the Junction Butte pack near the bear and its carcass. 889F, the last collared wolf running with the pack was in the area but separated. Apparently they had run it off like they did to 890M earlier. They had collared four wolves on the Junction Butte pack during the winter. The alpha female developed a severe neck injury and couldn't keep up with the pack and is on her own. They collared a gray pup that was in bad shape with mange who is off by itself. And now 890M and 889F are away from the pack making finding the wolf pack difficult for the wolf program. At 9:15 a.m. medium gray and a black yearling from the Lamar Canyon pack entertained the photographers at about 100 yards off the road in fresh snow. This morning the black yearling was dominating over her one year older pack member, but that changed when they revisited a fresh kill viewable at 250 yards from Footbridge Pullout. At 1:45 p.m. I was watching little action from the bison carcass and sleeping grizzly in Crystal Drainage when the five wolves tried once again to move the grizzly. They did not succeed and they’re bedded as the grizzly assumed the top of the carcass which by now he had covered with dirt. At 2:15 p.m. I found a small grizzly in Crystal Drainage near Specimen Ridge. Backtracking, Margaret from Bozeman had seen a grizzly that looked a lot like Scarface yesterday. And while I was watching the bison carcass at Crystal someone showed me a picture of a grizzly near Petrified Tree (yep, it was Scarface). I headed towards the Petrified Tree and Sian followed me. We glassed and ended up at Elk Creek. I found the black bear and two brown cubs on Garnet Hill at 4:30 p.m. but Sian looked back into Elk Creek as Scarface crossed the big clearing heading for the bottoms to the north. It was certainly Scarface, now 23 years old, and looking good.

Tuesday - 09 April

At 6:50 a.m. a dark wolf near Blacktail Deer Creek. At 7:40 a.m. Jim and Bobbie F. showed me a bedded grizzly in the tree line north of Blacktail Pond. I had been in the area from around 6:00 a.m. but was blocked from seeing the grizzly from my viewing place at Blacktail Deer Creek. At 8:35 a.m. the collared grizzly still sleeping on top of the bison carcass in Crystal Drainage. At 9:10 a.m. I went into Lamar to see the middle gray and the black yearling still on their carcass south of Footbridge Pullout. At 2:00 p.m. the black sow with two brown yearling cubs were out in view on Garnet Hill. At 3:00 p.m. we found a black bear running from the sow with two yearlings. It had got too close and was still running over .5 mile from the original chase. At 7:15 p.m. a grizzly came down to the unseen carcass at Blacktail Deer Creek, but soon left, so I assume the carcass is pretty much cleaned out. I did hear that on April 11th two more bison fell into and drowned in the Blacktail Pond, so now there are three untouched bison carcasses for future bears to find and eat.

Wednesday - 10 April

I left early Wednesday having lots of elk and deer on the roads and a cow and calf moose near the Osborne Bridge in Island Park.

Other News

From Ed and Bobbie T. from Jackson, both grizzly 399 and 610 have been seen out with there now two year cubs in the Grand Teton Park, I assume near Jackson Lake Lodge.

People seen on this trip: Wolf watchers: Rick M., Doug M. from Silver Gate, Kathy L., Richard from Wyoming, Sian from the UK, Alan and Kristy from the UK, Don and Carol from Missouri, Becky and Chloe from Montana, Jeff from Alberta, Dan and Laurie L, Peter M., Ron and Linda from Montana, and Marlene from Utah. Bear watchers: Jack G, Scott from Montana, Ralph N, from Montana, and Margaret from Montana. Others: Dan & Cindy H., Carl S., Ken T., Bob L, Cliff B., McNeil L., Nathan V., Kim and Joyce from Idaho, Roger and Kaye from Idaho, Jim and Judy W. from Montana, Tim and Bobbie from Colorado, Pete B. from Montana, and Bob from Utah.

Yellowstone Sunset ~ © Copyright All Rights Reserved Gerry Hogston

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