Monday, May 27, 2013

Beasts With Fur - The Mammals of Yellowstone

This is the sixth and final post from Karyn and my recent trip to Yellowstone National Park.

Post 1: Eye to Eye - Sandhill Cranes
Post 2: Bullying the Bully - 3 Coyotes v. 1 Wolf
Post 3: Under the Gaze of the Phantom of the North - Great Gray Owl!
Post 4: Bob!!!! - The Case For and Against Mobbing Behavior
Post 5: Bird Watching in Yellowstone

Most of the above posts are dominated by birds, but the primary intent in travelling to Yellowstone is typically to see the mammals. The Ecosystem in Yellowstone is one of the few places in the lower 48 states that has a predator assemblage that is nearly complete. Last year was our greatest year as far as action goes and this year was one of our lightest, but the animals were still around and showed up occasionally to surprise us. It was still well worth the trip!

As I have mentioned, the Grizzly Bears were all high in the mountains. We would see a number of them, but never up close. The wolves were generally traveling as individuals. In fact, only once on this trip did we get to see two wolves together. However, the best sighting was while we were hiking the Garnett Hill loop. This is one of our favorite trails that passes through a number of different habitat types. About 2 miles in, I saw a flash of black out of the corner of my eye. It had to be a wolf! It had ducked out of sight. I prepared the camera in case it came back into view. Yes!

Wolf 890 Male - "Patch" - of the Junction Butte Pack with GPS collar, Yellowstone National Park.

He provided some great views. Later in the hike we would spook up a Black Bear close to the same place we saw bears last year. This is only about a mile from teh Black Bear regularly spotted at Elk Creek.

Black Bear, Garnett Hill, Yellowstone National Park.
Black Bear, Elk Creek, Yellowstone National Park.

In addition to wolves in the Lamar and on the Garnett Hill hike, we also saw one in the Hayden Valley. After numerous trips to Hayden over the years, this is the first wolf we have seen there.

Lone wolf, Hayden Valley, Yellowstone National Park.

We would see moose nearly every day. One morning in Round Prairie, we saw six moose!

Moose, Confluence Lamar River/Soda Butte Creek, Yellowstone National Park.
Moose above Soda Butte Picnic Area, Yellowstone National Park.

Moving large to small...

Bison, Lamar Valley, Yellowstone National Park.
Bison, Lamar Valley, Yellowstone National Park.
Elk, Lamar River, Yellowstone National Park.
Bighorn Sheep, Specimen Ridge Trail, Yellowstone National Park.
Wet Coyote, Hayden Valley, Yellowstone National Park.
Wet Coyote, Hayden Valley, Yellowstone National Park.
Red Fox, Hell Roaring Creek, Yellowstone National Park.
American Badger, Lamar Valley, Yellowstone National Park.
Uinta Ground Squirrels, Specimen Ridge Trail, Yellowstone National Park.

Granted, this next one is not a mammal, but the dung is mammalian!

Dung Beetle, Slough Creek, Yellowstone National Park.

And, last but not least, that most invasive of all mammals - humans. All watching a dead bison, hoping for some action. If there is any doubt about people's commitment to wolves and wildlife, this is but one example. All of these people spent high dollars for scopes, cameras, and binoculars, then spent even more to travel to this spot. They are interested in all wildlife, but they came for wolves. Charismatic species matter as they provide a conservation umbrella for some of the other species photographed above.

Wolf Watchers, Dorothy's Knoll, Lamar Valley, Yellowstone National Park.

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