Ok – so there’s a huge advantage to living only a couple of hours away from the most famous National Park in the world. When I need a change from seeing my bison and wildlife here at Bison Quest, I can go see more bison and wildlife in the Park! And this weekend I came home grinning from ear to ear. May is a good month to see the huge predators that haunt the Yellowstone, and we were not disappointed.
It was right after we entered the Park that we heard the frenzied cries of a pair of coyotes. Glassing a nearby hillside, we could see two coyotes frantically howling and yipping as they engaged in a deadly game of cat and mouse with a lone wolf. The two coyotes were intently trying to get the wolf to leave the area, presumably because they had a den nearby, while the wolf made periodic lunges at them, punctuated by intense chases. I found myself rooting for the coyotes, praying that the wolf wouldn’t find the den of helpless pups. The group eventually moved into the trees, where we could no longer witness the conflict, and we went away without knowing the outcome. In nature, knowing the outcome happens much more on television than it does in real life.
Moving on, we saw a group of elk running up a hill and our immediate response was to pull over and start looking behind them. There’s really just one reason for elk to run in the Lamar- predators! It turned out that they were being chased by 2 wolves (we got there too late for that, and just saw one wolf). But while watching the elk on the ridge above us, we were gifted with the sighting of a mama griz digging on the slope with her brand new little one right on her heels.
After leaving that excitement behind us, we were favored with a more idyllic scene. A sleeping black bear laying next to a log in the sun, periodically lifting his head to see what was going on before resuming his snooze. Of course, the area around Slough Creek is always great for sighting predators in the spring, and we weren’t disappointed. A solitary griz was meandering across the broad valley floor, looking for “refrigerated” goodies left over from the winter. And our last wolf sighting was one of the more dramatic I’ve seen. A lone female wolf defended her den from a big grizzly sow and her two almost-grown cubs. It was an incredible sight that tugged at your heart strings as the lone wolf circled the bears, suddenly rushing at them and then throwing herself backwards as the bears retaliated with deadly charges. In between bouts, the female would raise her head in bone chilling howls, calling on her absent pack mates for assistance. Life in the Lamar isn’t an easy one for those who inhabit this wild place.
In between these bits of dramatic action, one encounters the threads that weave Yellowstone life together. The many elk herds that dot the landscape, the numerous bands of pronghorn antelope grazing on the rolling hillsides, and the huge herds of bison moving across the vast expanse, with new red calves tripping along beside their mamas. Awesome, incredible, heartrending and magnificent. Yellowstone National Park – like no other place on earth.