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Yellowstone National Park 2016 Trip Reports

Trip Report ~ Bear & Wolf Sightings ~
by Bill Hamblin & John William Uhler

12 through 16 April 2016

Yellowstone Antelope taken Spring 2016 ~ © Copyright John William All Rights Reserved

~ April 2016 ~

Buffalo and Magpie in Spring 2016 ~ © Copyright All Rights Reserved John William Uhler

Tuesday - April 12th

40 degrees this morning warming up to 53 degrees.  A large herd of big horn sheep rams were close to the road at confluence today.  At 6:30 a.m. the Mollies wolf pack was still in Lamar Valley.  I went up to the Lamar barn with Rick M. and set up the spotting scope for the kids at the Institute.  We had all sixteen wolves, eleven black and five gray wolves straight across the river on Amethyst Bench slowly moving to the east.  The kids were slowly coming out of their cabins and both our scopes were on the wolves.  During a slow time when I did not have to move the scope to keep up with the wolves I glassed the river corridor to the west and found a grizzly moving in the river bottoms moving to the east.  So now we had a scope of the sixteen Mollie wolves and one on the grizzly bear.  One of the kids said the bear picked up something and was carrying it.  The grizzly had found a bison calf, probably still born as we did not see a cow, and was carrying it up the hill a ways.  It soon stopped and started eating it.  Pretty nice way to start the morning.  Around 7:10 a.m. the grizzly was out of sight and the wolves had moved towards the old Druid rendezvous area.  Another grizzly was digging near the west end of the large fan.  When the wolves ran by it about 100 yards this side of it, the grizzly got scared and ran into the tree line.  At 11:45 a.m. I found a grizzly digging in the yellow grass meadow south in Slough Creek.  It was in a wet spot and at times laid down and was still lightly digging and eating.  At 1:30 p.m. we had a grizzly back on Amethyst Bench digging (I think a different grizzly from the bison calf one earlier).

Yellowstone Elk taken Spring 2016 ~ © Copyright All Rights Reserved John William Uhler

Wednesday - April 13th

41 degrees this morning warming up to 52 degrees but with rain and wind.  Turkey vultures are a rare sighting in Yellowstone so I was surprised to have five circling above me at Rick's Pullout this morning.  I found eleven mountain goats on Thunderer Mountain viewed from Pebble Creek Campground today.  At 6:45 a.m. Little T of the Lamar Canyon wolf pack was bedded north and east of Picnic Pullout.  I left soon after, then the two alphas 926F and 992M Twin appeared, all three crossed the road to the south and soon moved up Cache Creek and out of sight.  At 7:00 a.m. I spotted the grizzly on Amethyst Bench traveling east.  At 9:15 a.m. I found a lone un-collared black wolf of the Junction Butte wolf pack north of Elk Creek.  The wolf group soon found two gray wolves from Boulder Pullout.  My wolf disappeared so I moved to Rick's Pullout.  The wolf group soon lost their two wolves.  Soon I re-found the black wolf west of Junction Lake.  Soon Rick M found a collared gray that was 911M.  The black one, a pup, soon met 911M.  A lot of submission behavior and begging to be fed on their meeting.  They moved back to the west and then an un-collared gray wolf joined them.  They disappeared soon over a hill going west.  At 11:35 a.m. we had a grizzly digging on Amethyst Bench in the bare spots.   I am pretty sure a different grizzly then the one earlier traveling to the east.

Buffalo in Lamar Valley taken Spring 2016 ~ © Copyright All Rights Reserved John William Uhler

Thursday - April 14th

39 degrees this morning warming up, if you can call it, to 45 degrees today.  I saw a still white snowshoe hare near Mammoth Campground this morning.  Around 7:15 a.m. I heard of a grizzly near Boulder Pullout.  I arrived too late to see it, but it was this side of the river near the pond to the north and east.  I did find a grizzly to the south and far east above Long Pullout.  A younger looking grizzly that feed out in the openings for twenty minutes or so near the Specimen Trail that starts at Long Pullout.  The wolf group was sure a few of the Junction Butte wolves were around Slough this morning.  Finally Larry and Linda H. found them bedded just below the old Slough Creek den site. We had 911M the alpha male, 890M the beta male and 907F the beta female bedded in that area.  We are still hoping one of the Junction Butte females is going to den there, it would be good viewing for weeks to come.  At 9:45 a.m. the grizzly was back on Amethyst Bench digging in the bare spots.  Around noon Larry and Linda H called me to Coyote Overlook.  They had 993M dark black of the Lamar Canyon wolf pack north of Coyote Overlook and when I arrived he had moved to north of Fisherman's Pullout.  Good viewing for thirty minutes or so as he is afraid of the road but kept looking back across the road.  Light rain while watching, got to show it to a youngster and his dad from New York.  At 2:35 p.m. found a black bear with a black yearling cub north on the hill behind Garnet Hill.  At 3:00 p.m. I spotted a large black bear in the clearing at Lower Hellroaring viewed from Upper Hellroaring Pullout.

Yellowstone Grizzly Bear taken Spring 2016 ~ © Copyright All Rights Reserved John William Uhler

Friday - April 15th

The road from West Yellowstone opened at 8:00 a.m. this morning.  We can now go to Old Faithful and to Canyon, but not to Hayden Valley yet.  30 degrees this morning with frost on the windows warming up to 43 degrees, but windy and cold all day.  At 7:00 a.m. I spotted a black grizzly digging near the mixed conifer/aspen forest in Slough Creek.  This grizzly was in view for hours in the morning and then a hour or so around noon.  I walked down to Bob's Knob and others pointed out a black pup of the Junction Butte pack this side of the creek.  Soon a grizzly walked around the corner and came into view near the wolf.  This grizzly was collared but I do not think its the same collared grizzly we have seen on the carcasses in the last few weeks.  Anyway he moved to the Lion's Meadow and started digging.  Meanwhile the wolf people located three wolves bedded near the old Slough Creek den, 890M, 911M and the second black pup of the Junctions.  I left to glass elsewhere but heard the grizzly had traveled to the den area. When  I arrived the grizzly was being escorted by the wolves out of the area getting several bites on the backside as it left.  Around 7:30 a.m. I found a small grizzly in Crystal Drainage to the south near the old Crystal wolf pen site.  At 10:00 a.m. the black bear sow with two brown yearling cubs were near the Yellowstone River Bridge.  At 10:45 a.m. we had a grizzly south and west of Coyote Overlook above the river corridor digging.  At 11:00 a.m. we had a black bear south of Fisherman's Pullout near an island of trees viewed from Coyote Overlook.  At 12:50 a.m. I found a black bear and a black yearling cub high above Mum's Ridge viewed from Boulder Pullout.

Buffalo in Lamar Valley taken Spring 2016 ~ © Copyright All Rights Reserved John William Uhler

John and Carlene's trip report

Carlene and I left Rexburg at about 9:00 a.m. and headed north to Parkadise. We had very light traffic and it was overcast skies and about 40 degrees. We arrived at West Yellowstone and took a little break and then headed into the park. It was about 38 degrees and overcast skies. We did not see a lot of wildlife on our drive from West to Madison Junction, a few Canada geese, one elk, and a couple small herds of buffalo and one newborn bison calf. We stopped at Gibbon Falls and took a few photos and then headed north to Mammoth. We had very little wildlife on this drive, a few small herds of bison, ravens, mallards, geese and a few magpies.

We arrived in Mammoth at about noon and went to visit some of our old friends and get info about sightings and things going on in the park. We drove down to Gardiner as there are no places to eat at Mammoth at this time. We had snow flurries from Mammoth to Gardiner. We had lunch in Gardiner and then headed out to Lamar Valley. There is still some construction in Gardiner but most of the Park Street construction is done. It looks really nice and is a great improvement over the way it was. The Arch work is still ongoing and will be interesting to see how that all works out.

We saw antelope, deer, big horn sheep and buffalo along the way to Lamar Valley. We saw more antelope in Little America and Lamar Valley than I have ever seen. We did some spotting along the way and did not see anything besides what I have mentioned.

Mount Haynes in Spring 2016 ~ © Copyright All Rights Reserved John William Uhler

I was looking for bears and wolves at the Footbridge Pullout when Bill Hamblin stopped to help glass the hills and dales and fill us in on what he had seen so far today. We chatted and spotted for a while with no luck so we headed west towards Slough Creek. We parked and setup our scopes. We visited with old friends as folks started to show up to join in the wildlife watching fun. Shortly after Rick M arrived, he had a gray wolf spotted near the den site. Then another gray and a black wolf from the Junction Butte Pack appeared. They made quick trips around the den area and then the two gray wolves disappeared and the black wolf laid down in some brush and we could only see her ears and the top of her head. We were excited to be back home and to see wolves. We watched for a while and chatted and shared the scopes with those who wanted to see the wolves. We then headed to Mammoth to eat and visit with our friends Dave and Sharon and Liam.

Saturday - April 16th

We had a great breakfast and visited with our friends and then took leave to head back out to Lamar Valley. We saw some elk at Phantom Lake and a few small herds of buffalo just before Elk Creek and Roosevelt. We saw big horn sheep just past the Yellowstone Picnic area. We also had two small herds of antelope and buffalo on the hillside just past the big horn sheep. It was a beautiful mostly cloudless sky and around 40 degrees. We stopped in the Lamar Canyon and watched the osprey building a new nest and chatted with wildlife watchers. The owls had not been seen that use to nest at the top of the canyon. We drove through Lamar Valley stopping to look for wildlife and just saw elk, bison, antelope, ducks and hawks.

Bunsen Peak in Spring 2016 ~ © Copyright All Rights Reserved John William Uhler

We drove back to Slough Creek and joined in the group watching the Junction Butte Pack and visited with old friends. We then made a slow drive back to Mammoth to fill up the car and head south and out of the park. I was somewhat bummed as I had not seen any bears. Just a little ways past Beryl Spring traffic was pulled over and folks were using binocs, scopes and cameras. You guessed it, a Bear Jam! We pulled over and joined in the fun of watching a grizzly bear grubbing in a meadow just below the tree line. Cool, our first grizzly bear of the brand new season! We were happy and enjoyed the fun and viewing! A great way to end our first trip to Parkadise!

People Seen

From Montana:  Rick M, Doug M, Melba C, Josh A, Lizzie C, Bob and Elizabeth.  From Wyoming:  Larry and Linda H.  Bear Watchers:  From Montana:  Joe and Jeanne L, Doug M, Mike and Kathy W.  From Utah :  Larry M.  From Colorado:  Ed A.  From Idaho:  Carma and Jennings S.  Others:  From Montana:  Dan and Cindy H, Kevin and Tammy, Jim and Judy W, George B, MacNeil L and his four year old daughter, Cliff B, Bob L, Deby D, Alan and Sue O, Ken T, Brad O, and Frank and Kay Y.  From Oregon:  Dale and Elva P.  From Colorado:  Jim and Bobbie F.  From Louisiana:  Bruce.  From Idaho:  Craig C, Ray T and his wife and John and Carlene U.  From Utah:  Bob B.

Buffalo Youngsters Playing - April 16th, 2016 - Lamar Valley

Yellowstone Buffalo taken Spring 2016 ~ © Copyright John William All Rights Reserved

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