Planet Yellowstone: Live from the park, part 8

 by Helene on Wed May 30, 2012 10:31 pm

No Internet yesterday, just got in the Motel 6 in Jackson. Scrambling to keep up late in the game too, I’ve been talking (and seeing) too much and writing too little. So here is the old news first, hopefully I can tell you about today, tomorrow.

May 28, am
The morning drive got underway at 6:20 am and it included sightings of 2 black bears (a cinnamon at Elk Creek and a black a hair east and across the road from Floating Island Lake), a coyote (going downhill on Tower Road), a red tailed hawk (perched on a treetop in Little America) and Ria & Al, plus her folks (parked at Roosevelt). The Ria sighting was a revelation in itself, and on top of that she confessed to having illegally brought some pretty rotten North Dakota weather to Yellowstone.

The good old boys club of bighorn rams got together at the Yellowstone picnic area, and a frivolous ewe was getting the attention of some of the lads. Her coat looked a little moth-eaten, but she did a good job of selling her hide to the highest bidder.


12:05 pm
Lunch and the first hours after that were reserved for the off-chance of seeing the antelope fawns just outside the North Entrance. While their mother acted as if she didn’t have a thing to do with any kids, the 2 little ones were laying low far away from the cow and well separated from each other. If anything, the cow distanced herself even further from the fawns while we were there, and the wee ones hardly moved at all. Occasionally a little head bobbed up, but mostly the fawns were all ears.


Fortunately, according to informed sources, other Y-net correspondents were present at a nursing episode that took place about 2 hours later. Be sure to look for future posts in the Photography forum by (Dick & Maureen) Ware.

5 pm
The afternoon drive between Mammoth and the Slough Creek turnout came and went without any drama, and right where we planned our midway break we ran into Max, Bill & Peggy. It’s not that we can’t have any fun with just the 2 of us, but their presence sure did upgrade the break.

6:27 pm
Rosie Junior and the cubs were at Rainy Lake. The cubs were treed, but the sun was out, the setting was nice and the traffic light. There was just one small problem: the ranger of duty wanted any and all traffic to keep moving. So that’s what we did, right until we reached the Arch, and the field where those pronghorn babies were parked in the grass. The mom took her time looking around for potential danger before she went on to nurse one of the kids, but something spooked her after all. The fawn dropped to the ground and ma bolted. She tiptoed back to the fawn and cried a call, she looked left, right and center for the kid. Then, a male pronghorn barged into the scene, and ma drove him right off again. After a minute she returned, and so did the high pitched calls. By then it was almost dark, so we left the pronghorn soap for a bite to eat and some sleep.

May 29, 6:32 am
As we hit Swan Lake Flat, 2 dark shapes were visible in the distance and we thought that maybe Quadmom had made an appearance. When we parked the folks who were already there told us that this was a mating pair. A big totally black grizzly boar was courting a brown and blond sow which couldn’t be described as petite, either. The 2 colossal creatures seemed to be wrapping up the morning’s post X-rated ceremonies, first sharing a light grass and root breakfast, then her walking off without a huff, him following bemused with a “was it something I said?” look on his face. Unfortunately, as she led him by the nose, they moved away further from the road.

8:08 am
It looked like it could be a bright and sunny day today, and as the night seemed to have been mostly dry, chances looked good that the Dunraven Pass would finally open. We drove up Tower Road to see if Rosie Junior was still present at Rainy Lake, and to see if the “road closed” sign had disappeared. For the time being, it was the other way around: Rosie Jr. was gone, the road sign still there. We killed some time at Floating Island Lake, glassing the grebes, ruddy ducks and a bufflehead, then returned to Tower 45 minutes later.

9:12 am
The pass was open, the sky was clear and blue and the drive to Canyon was bee-you-tea-fool. From the pullout just past the Washburn trailhead, the mountains to the south and east stood out in high definition quality. We rolled down to Canyon and into Hayden Valley, and stopped at a jam just north of the Fishing Bridge junction.

10:45 am
Far off in the field, the grizzly sow known by most people as Blaze, and her pretty dark yearling were having an early lunch. Folks who were on site earlier said that the grizzly had taken down an elk calf. We watched the snacking grizzlies through the scope for a while, then drove to Lake Butte overlook and back to the junction. Stories of a griz mom and 2 yearlings hanging out near the Lake Hotel had us checking the area there, but sometimes other fierce creature shows itself instead:


1:16 pm
Lunch was at Gull Point Drive along the lake, then we worked our way back to Tower, driving through a pretty quiet Hayden Valley. While the rangers were chilling out at Calcite, Rosie Jr. stopped the traffic 300 yards downhill and led her cubs across the road.


To us, that looked a whole lot like the old Rosie’s habituated behavior around cars (until she got interested in the Elk Grille, that is).

3:13 pm
An early dinner date with friends, and the guesstimated nursing schedule of the pronghorn fawns had us on our way to Gardiner early. We briefly stopped just before Floating Island Lake where 2 black bears (mating pair? beer buddies? we couldn’t tell) were in the same field together. Close to the Blacktail Plateau Drive a marmot? no, a badger! crossed the road in front of us. We parked as soon as we could and searched the area but the badger was likely long gone.

4:22 pm
The pronghorn momma was still inconspicuously hanging around the fields outside the North Entrance. We found 2 sets of little ears protruding from the yellow grass, and settled in to wait. What is illustrated below followed not too long after.


5:25 pm
Dinner was at Rosie’s (the restaurant, not the playground), and desert a drive up to Swan Lake Flat. The food was good, the company better. From left to right: Peggy, Rene, Dick, Maureen, Helene, Max, Jenn, Bill.