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Yellowstone National Park 2023 Trip Reports

Trip Report ~ Bear & Wolf Sightings ~ by Bill Hamblin

10 through 13 April 2023
Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone Grizzly Bear taken Spring 2023 ~ © Copyright Bruce Parler ~ All Rights Reserved

First grizzly of the year ~ Blacktail Ponds ~ April 9th, 2023 ~ Photo by Bruce Parker © All Rights Reserved

~ April 2023 ~

Yellowstone Grizzly Bear taken Spring 2014 ~ © Copyright John William Uhler All Rights Reserved

Monday - April 10th

40 degrees in Gardiner but only 28 degrees in Slough Creek this morning. The Wrecker Pullout is closed, I assume this may be closed through 2026 when the Yellowstone River Bridge project is scheduled to be complete. The construction is also removing snow off the south side of the road near the Yellowstone River Picnic area with a large backhoe type machine. I saw my first bluebirds, robins, and a marmot today so spring is coming. At 7:15 a.m. I found a black and a gray wolf being escorted through the Yellow Grass Meadow by four coyotes near the Slough Creek Campground. Rick M arrived and identified the black as the alpha male and the gray as not 907F who is now the alpha female (I had guessed that maybe the two were traveling together). At 8:30 a.m. I pulled in to Lower Hellroaring pullout where Rick M had found the main body of Junction Butte pack. The final count this morning was 11 grays and 9 blacks. With the one gray seen at 7:15 a.m. all the grays were accounted for today. Yesterday late in the afternoon a mountain lion had taken a big horn sheep ewe close to the road at Confluence. I did not hear of the sighting until early this morning. At 10:15 a.m. Evan S passed me at the Hellroaring Pullout and said the mountain lion was still in view. I proceeded quickly to the Confluence. With help from Melba C I got to see the lion. It was bedded high east of Confluence East. Only the head was in view from time to time. Apparently late yesterday the coyotes found the carcass after the lion went uphill to bed. By this morning the carcass was really close to the road, so the park hauled it away. Rumors were that the mountain lion was a male.

Tuesday - April 11th

42 degrees in Gardiner but only 32 degrees at Blacktail Ponds in the morning warming up to the high 50's in the park. I viewed my first sandhill cranes today from Bob's Knob in Slough Creek. In the same pond were two trumpeter swans swimming. I had a golden eagle flying near Tower Junction today. The construction of the new Yellowstone River Bridge had a one way at a time closure from the junction almost to the bridge today. They were pushing snow back away from the road. At 6:05 a.m. the grizzly was bedded near the ice opening at Blacktail Ponds. It gets only parts of the carcass there, it hasn't pulled it out of the pond yet. I think the grizzly is an older one, but it sometimes doesn't act that way. Kevin M observed it sliding down the hill face first coming to the carcass at night. Others have seen it dig a hole in the snow to nap. Sometimes it sits on its rear and looks around. Sometimes he turns around and around playing. At 6:45 a.m. Michael S from Wolf Tracker showed me a black Junction Butte wolf (actually he had two grays also, that I did not see) near Tornado Drainage from Upper Hellroaring. At 8:00 a.m. I had walked down to Bob's Knob down the Slough Creek Campground Road (still about fourteen inches of snow, but still packed hard) where Doug M (bear watcher) found the black alpha male of the Junction Butte. Earlier Rick M had sixteen wolves traveling east towards Bob's Knob. The alpha ran towards the group of howling wolves out of sight. The wolves had stalled out, but other wolf watchers had them from near Long Pullout. We headed back to the road and down to Long Pullout. The wolves were bedded but the alpha and all sixteen others were there. I and most of the other watchers moved on with no movement from the bedded wolves. Cindy and Janice later found that the wolves had found a carcass or more likely killed a bull elk. When I returned, they had moved from the carcass and bedded but then moved over a hill and out of sight. Some must have gone out of sight earlier since the count was only thirteen wolves now. From 9:30 a.m. through 10:30 a.m. I watched the mountain lion again this time from Hitching Post. Others had found it again. Long viewing but the lion was bedded with feet pointing our way. The lion raised its head once in a while, but the tail was wagging often.

Yellowstone Wolf ~ © Copyright All Rights Reserved Gerry Hogston

Wednesday - April 12th

44 degrees in Gardiner but only 34 degrees at Blacktail Plateau this morning warming up to 58 degrees. I had a golden eagle near Hitching Post in Lamar Valley this morning. A moose was high northeast of Dorothy's Pullout eating on the only small tree on the hillside. Today they installed a stop light on both sides of the high bridge east of Mammoth. They installed concrete barriers to separate the lanes beginning of each end and closed the south side of the road. It's only about a five-to-six-minute wait. I do wonder what the park plan is when the bison want to use the bridge when they move east to better feeding grounds. The last two days a large amount of snow has melted away. At 5:40 a.m. the grizzly bear at the Blacktail Ponds was bedded about one hundred and fifty yards from the road. After I left, it visited the carcass and got a little more to eat, the bear still has not pulled the carcass out of the pond. When I passed by the Blacktail Ponds at 5:30 p.m. the grizzly had dug a hole in the snow and laid down in the hole. After I left, he returned to the carcass towards evening.

Thursday - April 13th

Yellowstone Grizzly Bear taken Spring 2014 ~ © Copyright John William Uhler All Rights Reserved

37 degrees and snowing hard in Gardiner but snowing and sticking at 30 degrees on Blacktail Plateau only warming up to 33 degrees, but the roads cleared up nicely. I avoided a dusky grouse on the road near Hellroaring Pullout this morning. I had a golden eagle flying near the Confluence this morning. Friends of Rita R, a family of four from North Carolina, told me that two otters were playing in the Lamar River viewed from Lamar Canyon East Pullout. The otters must have been a mother and a young one since the young one was chirping all the time the mother was fishing. The young one was on the snowbank a lot of the time, and the mother came on the snow side of the river to play for a minute or two. We watched for fifteen minutes, and they were still in sight when I moved on. I had a moose cross the road near Lower Hellroaring this afternoon, running with ease through the two feet of snow there. At 5:42 a.m. I spotted the grizzly at the Blacktail Ponds bedded in the same place as yesterday. As the crowd was growing and the parking lot got full, I moved on to the east. After I left the grizzly came and fed at the carcass, which he had finally pulled out of the ice pond. Later it moved north up the hill and out of sight. About the time it left, three wolves of the Rescue Creek Pack had crossed the road from the south and came to the ponds. Frank H says a gray yearling actually came to the carcass and took a few bites (amazing in that the carcass was only forty or so yards from the parking lot full of people and cars). Later the three wolves recrossed the road and had a brief group meeting before moving west and out of sight. With the carcass now out of the pond I am guessing it won't last much longer.

People Seen

Wolf Watchers: From Montana: Rick M, Taylor R, Janine and Cindy H, Ashea T, Jack R, Doug M, Ilona P, and Melba C. From California: Bill W, and Glenda M and Rick. From Wyoming: Christy and Paul G. And from Missouri: Frank H. Bear Washers still this report: From Louisiana: Bruce P. From Montana: Doug M. From Wyoming: Kevin M, And from Utah: Larry M. Others seen this report: From Montana: Quinn H, Evan S, Mike S, Michael S, Linda C, Bonnie M, Grant J, Brandan N, and Nate U.

Yellowstone Moose ~ © Copyright All Rights Reserved John William Uhler

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