Friday, May 02, 2008

Live, Love, and Die

click photos to enlarge

This is a continuation of my previous post on our adventures in Yellowstone National Park titled The Chase, the Carcass, and the Right Place at the Right Time.

Two new inches of snow welcomed our new day this morning. It was still falling as the van started to roll toward the Lamar Valley. There we would soon meet up with the core of the Slough Creek wolf pack. Ten members appeared high on the north ridge before seven of them came down into the valley. These would be the same seven that didn’t get to eat yesterday. They may not have eaten for 3-4 days.


The wolves first task was to chase off a Grizzly bear. The young bear ran for a mile or more up the other side of the valley. An adult would not be so easily intimidated. Next the wolves found an old carcass which provided something to chew on, but little else. Within ten minutes they were off to continue their hunt. Across the river they surrounded a group of twelve bull elk. The wolves would surge in to test the herd, but the elk stayed together and stayed strong. The elk would live, for now. The wolves realized the elk were too strong and continued on their way.

As they passed over the ridge and out of sight, we decided to check on the Druid Peak wolf pack.

We found the Druid’s further up the valley. The Alpha Male and Beta Male looked over the valley from high on the ridge. The yearling was down closer to the road mixed up with four coyotes. This same wolf has been harassing coyotes for four days. This time they had him surrounded and clearly annoyed.

We moved back down to Slough Creek to see if the Slough wolves have reappeared. They had. They had just made another chase on a different elk herd which proved unsuccessful. They then tried for a bison calf, there were three calves with 4 adult bison. This too was unsuccessful. These elk and bison would also live. The wolves are really having a tough time getting a meal.

We joined up with Paul for another hike down the tower road which remained closed to cars. Lots to see and this time we did find a Black Bear, the first of our trip. We were once again attacked by the killer Blue Grouse protecting his territory. He actually bit me a number of times!

We noticed that love is definitely in the air. On the hike we found a pair of Peregrine Falcons and we spied two occupied Osprey nests. This one with a bird just landing to switch duty of sitting on the eggs.


Later in the day we would see many pairs of Sandhill Cranes including these two (Karyn took this picture).


We also found a number of pairs of Red-tailed Hawks. Another picture by Karyn.


This evening we were about 10 minutes too late to see the seven Slough wolves return to the herd of twelve elk and successfully take one. We arrived as they were still in their initial feeding. Finally their bellies will be full, at least until they return to the den to regurgitate for the nursing females. In a few weeks they will be regurgitating for the puppies themselves.

We watched for a few hours as the wolves ate, at least 30 ravens, a half dozen magpies, a bald eagle and a coyote all joined in the feast. One death feeds many. It will feed many more over the coming days.

To finish off the evening we once again saw the Druid wolves and a Grizzly right near the road.

This will be the last post for a few days. We leave the Lamar Valley tomorrow for Madison.

This articles is featured in I and the Bird #76 blog carnival. "I and the Bird remains the undisputed champion of blog carnivals concerning birding and wild birds on the planet. Our far flung collaboration is still the best way for nature bloggers everywhere to reach an engaged, intelligent audience." - Mike Bergin, Founder of "I and the Bird".

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