I had the great pleasure of spending 2 weeks in Yellowstone in July. Very early in the visit I found the well known grizzly sow, Raspberry and her 2 year old cub, Jam. She is a great mother, and it was a joy to watch her and Jam wrestle and play together, something I understand they are well known for.
Around midday one day I took a drive up towards Tower Falls. That road from Canyon was rebuilt over a two year period and is greatly improved. In one section, just past the turn to drive to the top of Mt. Washburn there are several new large pullouts where several vehicles can park and people can stand safely to view any action in the valley. Sort of like having balcony seats for a show (IF there is anything to see), of course that is unpredictable! On my visit I saw some people stopped so I pulled in and got out my binoculars. Sure enough there was a relatively new bison carcass in the distance. I needed to get back to the trailer but planned on returning later. I returned to that pullout out for 4 evenings and 3 early mornings, spending anywhere from 3 to 5 hours there each time and it was worth it. Unfortunately the action was far away, best viewed through a spotting scope. I have a little rig to put my phone on the scope and used that to watch the animals, both wolves and grizzly bears. It was nice to be able to share the experience with others who could stand and watch the action on the phone, like a mini tv screen. Unfortunately the videos and photos I took using that are not very good, but boy, do they bring back memories! One evening there was a black wolf at the carcass along with a grizzly, then we all watched as two more grizzly bears came in. They circled around and around, during that time the wolf would dart in a grab something off the carcass while the dominant bear was chasing the other two off. The second bear chased the third one away after awhile. When I left that evening the wolf was still around and the dominant bear was allowing the second bear to feed at the carcass. A memorable evening!
A little south of that same area I knew that a black bear sow was hanging out with two cubs of the year. One morning (after the carcass had been pretty much demolished in the space of 4 days) I found her.
The first morning I was in the park I took a drive south through Hayden Valley. Just past the Mud Volcano I spotted a grizzly sow with two young cubs, she was far away and headed into the woods so I did not get any photos. I learned that the south end of Hayden Valley is roughly her territory and so hoped to see here again. Sure enough, late one evening she was spotted a bit further north in an open area feeding on roots. I got a few images but with the light fading they were not particularly good. The next morning I headed out early, hoping she might be in the same area. She was out feeding in the open with her two cubs. The blue flowers in the background are Lupines, they are abundant in the park this time of year.
Of course the Bison were everywhere, the older calves now getting their darker coats but there were a few of the late born “red dogs”. The newborn calves are almost an orange-red color and are thus called “red dogs”. There were quite a few elk cows, looking sleek after shedding their winter coats and a couple of handsome bulls with their antlers still in velvet.
All images © Jean Clark