Saturday, May 19, 2012

Bears, Badgers, and Other Creatures of Yellowstone National Park

It is worth noting that in all of our (Karyn and I) Yellowstone adventures I have been reporting on over the past few days, we did not spend all of our time observing wolves and birds. There was a wide variety of other wildlife present to help entertain and in some cases, challenge us.

Yellow-bellied Marmot. Yellowstone River Canyon. Yellowstone National Park.

Bears. Many people travel to Yellowstone in the hopes of seeing bears. If you spend much time there, you will be definitely be successful. We saw lots of bears. We had dozens of sightings. In most cases these were Grizzly Bears which we could observe from a distance across the Lamar Valley. Most every evening one to three Grizzlies would be out and about. We watched as one chased a bison heard far up canyon. I was amazed at how far they could run. I had always expected them to be limited to short, fast bursts of power. There were reports of a few grizzlies with cubs of the year (COYs), but we would only see one such family. Luckily, we didn't find any on our hikes.

Black Bear. Slough Creek. Yellowstone National Park.

Black bears were another case. We would find Black Bears during two of our hikes. Luckily, no contact was made. During the Garnet Hill hike, we came upon some hikers who has just spooked up a black bear and its cubs right next to the trail. They were fairly alarmed. We crossed the stream to climb up on the opposite hillside to see what we had to deal with. It was a black bear with two yearling cubs and didn't seem too upset.

Black Bear and Yearling Cubs. Garnet Hill. Yellowstone National Park.

She was so alarmed that she rolled over onto her back and started nursing the cubs. I was surprised that she would continue to nurse yearlings. As one friend pointed out, what a great observation on Mother's Day! Anyway, we gave her as much room as possible and continued on our way.

Black Bear nursing yearling cubs. Garnet Hill. Yellowstone National Park.

On our final hiking day, we headed down to the confluence of Slough Creek and the Lamar River to get a closer view of a Bald Eagle nest. We sat up on a hill over the river to look into the eagle nest on the other side. Karyn glanced down to see another bear lounging in the shade next to the river. What a great place to hang out on a hot day

Black Bear. Slough Creek. Yellowstone National Park.

My field studies into the dynamics between Northern Goshawks and Belding's Ground Squirrels have raised my awareness of this critical raptor prey source. There are no Belding's in Yellowstone, but the Uinta Ground Squirrel has taken its place as the primarily mammalian food source for raptors.

Uinta Ground Squirrel. Slough Creek. Yellowstone National Park.

These guys are everywhere, watching for threats and giving off their ubiquitous alarm call.

Uinta Ground Squirrel. Lamar Valley. Yellowstone National Park.

But the threats to ground squirrels are not limited to aerial predators. One of my other favorite animals (how many times can I say that...) is the American Badger!

American Badger. Lamar Valley. Yellowstone National Park.

As you can tell, Spring is a great time in the park. I just got back, but I can't wait to go again.

Chipmunk (Yellow-pine Chipmunk?). Near Mammoth. Yellowstone National Park.
Wapiti (Elk). Madison River. Yellowstone National Park
Pronghorn. Lamar Valley. Yellowstone National Park.

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