Yellowstone National Park 2014 Trip Reports
Trip Report ~ Bear & Wolf Sightings ~ by John W. Uhler
May 21 thru 26, 2014
~ May 2014 ~
Wednesday - 21 May
At about 10:00 AM I am headed north to Parkadise. It is a beautiful clear spring day. The temperature is 65 degrees and I can see the Grand Tetons on my right or on the east through a little bit of haze. It is a great day to be headed back home to Yellowstone. When I entered the park the temperature was 60 degrees driving from the west entrance towards Madison through the lodge pole pines. About a month ago when Carlene and I drove to the park there was snow on both sides of the road, it is all but gone now except in some deep shady areas. There is still snow on the mountain tops but not as much as usual. Riverside drive is open and there are no eagles on the nest along the Madison. At seven mile bridge there were no swans, no bison, and no elk to view. Usually there are a couple bison present but not today at this time. The Madison River is a little higher at this time as the spring melt or runoff is happening. About a mile past seven mile bridge we have bison in the road and the first bison jam as some folks are not sure what to do. We take our time and enjoy the bison. The first elk that I saw were at the wildlife viewing area near Madison Junction but on the left or north side of the road. The wildlife viewing area was overrun by about eight Canada geese and nothing else.
It is 100 miles from Rexburg to Gibbon Falls in Yellowstone. It is about 120 miles to Canyon from Rexburg. It is about 125 miles from Rexburg to Hayden Valley. It is about 130 miles from Rexburg to the Mud Volcano area in the park.
Just past Sedge Bay and the Lake Butte Overlook road there was a grizzly grubbing for food in a lodge pole pine dead fall area. It was about 400 or 500 yards from the road. This was my first grizzly bear of the year.
After watching the griz for a while, I turned around and headed west. Just before Indian Pond I saw a griz in the snow on the south side of the road. It was about 800 yards off the road and was just grubbing in the snow looking for spring food. After watching my second grizzly bear of the year I loaded up the spotting scope and camera and headed north towards Mammoth.
We had a 15 minute wait just north of Norris campgrounds due to road construction and waiting for the pilot vehicle to make it back our way. Just as we made our way through the construction zone there was a good size herd of bison headed south and they had traffic backed up for about two or more miles. I was really glad I was headed north and not south.
At the Phantom Lake area there was a bull moose laying on the hillside above the road. I did not see the cow and calf, they were probably below the hill and out of sight. I was headed east towards Lamar Valley. From about 6:00 to 6:50 PM I watched a black bear sow and three cubs between Roosevelt and Tower. At 7:18 PM in Lamar Valley it was 68 degrees and most of the snow is gone from the valley floor and we had elk, antelope and bison grazing in Lamar. At about 7:30 PM we had two grizzly bears on the hillside by the Footbridge Pullout. We also watched a beaver in Soda Butte Creek. At about 8:00 PM I watched two more grizzly bears, a bore and a sow just east and south of the Soda Butte Cone. I watched them until it got dark at about 8:38 PM. Then I packed up and headed back to Mammoth where I will be staying with some friends during this trip. So today I saw six grizzly bears and four black bears for a ten bear day and one bull moose along with the other wildlife. What a great way to start my spring trip in Parkadise, I am stoked.
Thursday - 22 May
I was up early and on the road at about 5:45 AM with clear skies and the temp was 42 degrees. I was headed from Mammoth to Lamar Valley. At 6:25 AM I had a black bear at Floating Island Lake. Today the Lamar River turned muddy and was rising. Yesterday the river was clear but the spring runoff has started in haste. As I drove into Lamar Valley I noticed a large group of cars parked all over Fishermens Pullout. At 6:45 AM as I passed the pullout I saw what they were looking at, a large grizzly bear heading north towards the road. The bear was about 200 yards off the road. There was no parking around Fishermens Pullout so I went further down the road to find a place to pullover. Another young couple and I walked down the road as we could not see the bear because of a small hill. We watched the bear walk towards the road nervously and head back south and out of sight which was not a good thing so we headed back to our cars as we did not know where the bear was or where he would turn up. Just as we got back to our cars, the bear showed up about 100 yards off the road right in front of our cars. I stood up on the inside of my car door. The griz was walking slowly through the sagebrush towards the road. Then the bear stopped and stood up and looked to its right and then to its left like it as checking for cars or traffic. It then got down and slowly started to walk through the sagebrush towards the road in front of us. We were all excited and taking picture as quickly as we could. It was not the best light, but you do what you have to do right? It was an amazing experience. All of us were thrilled to see the bear stand and look around and then cross the road in front of us. Once the bear was across the road it took off running in the open grass up the hillside into the sagebrush. Wow, I thought yesterday was great with six grizzly and four black bears, this just beat that.
At 8:00 AM we have six grizzly bears, two sows with two cubs each just south of the Institute. We watched the bears until they disappeared into the trees at about 9:15 AM. While at the Institute I met an old friend, Mark Swartz from Minnesota and we had a nice chat while watching the bears. I next headed down to the Footbridge Pullout as word was that there was a wolf in the area, but no luck. I headed back west to the pullouts above the Institute and we found three grizzlies, a sow and two cubs up near the Ski Slope. We watched them from about 10:00 AM until 12:45 PM. At about 2:00 PM Bill Hamblin found another single grizzly in an area he calls the Salad Bowl. The bear was working its way down the clearing and into the sagebrush. The temp gauge read 80 degrees at 4:15 PM a very nice warm day. We did see a golden eagle soaring around while at the Hitching Post pullout and the bald eagles are on the nest in Lamar with chicks. From 6:28 to 6:48 PM we had a grizzly viewed from the pullout by the Lamar River Bridge. It swam the river and started to come towards us but then disappeared behind a ridge and we did not see it again. On the drive out of Lamar to Slough Creek I got a glimpse of a griz right before Lamar Canyon as it was going up the mountain. At 7:30 PM at Coyote pullout we watched a courting pair of grizzlies. After these two bears disappeared I headed west to Slough Creek and Little America towards Mammoth. Another great day in Parkadise!
Friday - 23 May
I was up and on the road by 5:35 AM headed east towards Lamar Valley. The temp is 46 degrees and skies are clear with no clouds. About 6:50 AM at Slough Creek we have a grizzly and three wolves, two grays and a black. They were on our side of the creek and then the griz ran into the creek and started swimming across with the wolves swimming after it. They are swimming Slough Creek and looking for a place to exit the water. The creek bank was pretty high where they swam across and so they had to go up river to find a place to get out. The griz just walked away and the wolves were all together and out of the water. The griz was headed off to our right and the wolves were just out in front of us. At 7:00 AM we have three grays wolves and a black wolf. A short while later the wolves were joined by another gray wolf making four grays and a black. We were told by the wolf folks that this is the Junction Butte Pack, the black wolf is the alpha male 890 and a collared gray male 911, and 907 a yearling female collared gray. We were at the first pullout on the Slough Creek Campground road. We had a nice crowd watching and enjoying the griz and wolves. The wolves slowly made their way up the mountain to a small cluster of quakies where there was an old bison kill. The wolves were just milling around and laying down. So at 8:46 AM I headed towards Tower Campground to see if I could get a campsite for the night. By 9:30 AM I have campsite number 5 and I am set for the day and night. Tower is a great little campground, nice and handy to all that is going on in in Parkadise. They have opened Dunraven so I head over towards Hayden Valley and did not see much of anything on the hillsides. I did see a Great Blue Heron on the Yellowstone River from the wildlife pullout. I headed towards Fishing Bridge to see if the griz was still around that I watched on Wednesday that has been hanging around Indian Pond or anything new, no luck. I head back to Canyon to have lunch with some friends and then we head back over Dunraven and back out to Lamar Valley. At 2:38 PM I am driving into Little America and the temp gauge reads 83 degrees. I do not know how correct that is, but it is warm. We have a sow and a cub of the year on Specimen Ridge crossing a snow patch. At 7:15 PM we have a grizzly in Slough Creek coming down and crossing the river. We watched it until about 7:30 PM when it disappeared behind a ridge. At 8:00 PM the grizzly is back out and walking across the hillside. We stayed until 9:30 PM watching the nervous elk, but we lost daylight and we could not see anything happening at that time. So I headed back to Tower Campground and had a snack and hit the sack so I could be up early tomorrow morning.
Saturday - 24 May
Up and out of the campground at 5:15 AM I headed east towards Slough Creek. Temp about 41 degrees at 5:46 AM with clear blue skies with some clouds on the horizon. Beautiful morning in Parkadise! I arrive at the pullout at Slough Creek and shortly thereafter we have two grizzlies at 6:53 AM. We also have two beavers in Slough Creek working on their lodge at about 7:12 AM and we were still watching the grizzlies as they slowly made their way grubbing through the valley and up and into the trees out of sight. No wolves, but we have bears and beavers. I reluctantly packed up the scope and camera and headed west towards Tower and home. What a fantastic trip to Parkadise, a dream come true with friends from years gone by sharing sightings and stories and laughter. It doesn't get much better than that!
Take care my friends until next time!
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