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Wildlife watching in Yellowstone's northern range.
Sunday, March 18, 2007, I am packing to go out of town for a week; but I heard that a Grizzly Bear was sighted in Yellowstone. So with camera and spotting scope in hand we head into the park to take a look. It is pretty early in the year for watching bears and we have left later in the day (the sun is actually out) than we normally do for wildlife watching, but I am determined to find a bear.
Pronghorn antelope and mule deer watch us as we drive under the Roosevelt Arch in Gardiner and into Yellowstone National Park. Elk and bison are grazing the hillsides along the winding drive up the hill to Mammoth Hot Springs. Steam is rising off the terraces as we turn east towards Tower Junction and Lamar Valley. Spring is definitely on the way; bison and elk are everywhere searching for those first green shoots of grass emerging from the melting snow.
We spot our first sign of bears; the rangers have posted the signs warning hikers and cross-country skiers of the Bear Management Areas. OK, so it's not a real bear, but those signs mean one might be just over the next hill. As we enter Lamar Valley a crowd has gathered at one of the pullouts. We stop to see what the excitement is all about.
"No bears, just a pack of eight wolves", I tell my husband. He gets as excited as the rest of the crowd, and I can see the wolf pack moving across the snow on a far ridge. Now don't get me wrong, I love to watch the wolves, but I get a little single minded at times and I haven't seen a bear since September. We set up the spotting scope and watch the wolves. It is the Slough Creek Pack and they are on the move, heading west toward a point where some Agate Pack wolves were spotted earlier in the morning. The Slough Creek wolves disappear into the timber and we continue east along the Lamar River.
We stop at several pullouts along the way and glass the hills and valleys for any sign of a Grizzly. At a rest stop area we ask some other wildlife watchers if they have seen any bear. No one has seen one today, but Big Horn Sheep were sighted. We set up the spotting scope and look for the sheep and surprise, we find a Mountain Goat standing on the ledge. This is the earliest we have seen a Mountain Goat in Yellowstone, usually we find them in early summer closer to the north entrance at Cooke City. We watch him until he beds down behind a tree and then we start back towards Gardiner.
Along the way we stop to look at an eagle nest, none are visible but the nest is so big that one or more could be down inside and we wouldn't be able to see them. We pull out and check on the Slough Creek Wolf Pack. They have moved and are running and rolling through a deep snow field following their noses on the trail of the Agate Pack. They disappear into the timber again and we move on.
We stop at a pullout and check on an owl nest. Their young should be large enough to be looking out of the nest by now. We are surprised to see what looks very much like a Golden Eagle sitting in the nest. This is a shock and we wonder what the fate is of the Great Horned Owls that usually nest here. We stop at one more pullout and glass the hills, I find Big Horn Sheep, but no bear.
This has been a wonderful day in Yellowstone, no Grizzly, but I have seen so much wildlife and any day in the park is better than a day sitting at home. I will continue my "bear hunt" when I return from my trip.
Best place to base your Yellowstone Wildlife vacations, original and only year round entrance to Yellowstone National Park.
Mammoth Hot Springs, WY is the headquarters for Yellowstone National Park. It was origanally an Army Outpost, Fort Yellowstone, maintained for the protection of the park before the National Park Service was established.