(This is a trip report I had done for a Yellowstone forum back in 2011. I recently migrated here to my personal page.)
After leaving Fishing Bridge around 5pm and driving back to Mammoth in some bad snow, we had smooth sailing on our way back to back Silver Gate, until we go through Lamar. By then it was dark and the snow was piling up on the road and visibility was very limited. There were no tire tracks in the snow in front of us and it was like traveling at Star Wars warp speed with the snow flying toward our window shield. Finally, 11pm and we were back in Silver Gate for the night, tired and a bit hungry. The Lamar Pack had not taken any animals in the past two days. They were due and with the fresh snow on the ground, there was no way we were not going to miss daybreak in Lamar the following morning.
The 4am alarm went off and we got ready for another full day in the park. We were on the road shortly after 5am.
Cell phone picture of our cabin that morning.
We had not seen a vehicle until we hit Hitching Post and Doug from Silver Gate Cabins was there looking about. I walked up and said “great morning to see the wolves with the snow” and he replied back that it may already be over as he caught a glimpse of a black wolf traveling toward where they cross to the den site. With no wolves in site we traveled down the road, watching a mule deer run east along the opposite side of the river and we looked at each other not recalling seeing mule deer in this area before. Around the bend in the road, below Confluence (confluence of Lamar River and Sode Butte Creek) , Rick Mcintyre was stopped in the road. There were wolves crossing the road. We stopped and watched the Lamar Alpha male 755 cross the river, road and go up the hill to the north and above us. Once at the top he traveled along the edge back east behind us giving us a quick glimpse as he went by until he disappeared.
Back on the other side of the river we found Lamar Alpha female ’06 following in her mate’s path, crossing the river, road in front of us and part way up the hill. ’06 turned around, back across the road and back across the river.
Once on the other side she made her way east along the river and this is where we got back in our vehicles and turned back around towards the pullout at Confluence.
Once around the bend we see 755 had come down off the hill, crossed the road and river and taken out the mule deer we saw just a few minutes earlier.
755 proceed to remove his prize from the deer and head back into the willows to enjoy his meal in peace. ’06 was fast approaching along and through the Confluence area, nose in the air guiding her to the deer her mate had taken down.
And finally finding the carcass.
755 returned from the willows to join his mate.
Only 30 minutes had gone by so far since this all started.
The two wolves continued filling their stomach while ravens quickly congregrated waiting their turn or a chance to steal a morsel. Everyone once in a while the wolves would chase at the ravens.
Back at the carcass, wolves doing what wolves do…..
Until a grizzly show up and takes possession of the carcass, chasing the wolves off.
755 came back and gave the bear a nip in the butt prompting the bear to turn and swat at him but wolves are no match for the bear.
Disgusted at losing the carcass, 755 lets out a little howl.
And grizzlies do not like ravens either.
The grizzly bear settle in at the carcass and it was only under an hour since the deer was taken down by 755. Bears have amazing noses.
The overnight snow provided a great backdrop for the events of the morning. After spending 2 hours watching everything unfold, we moved down the road looking for our next adventure. We came back later in the afternoon but nothing new had happen or did happen the remainder of the day at the carcass.
Later that same week, down in the center of the park I came across a sow grizzly and her cub of the year (COY) moving through an open area with snow falling.
There were foraging for food, the COY mimicking it's mother digging in the snow.
Yes, I'll stay right where I am at a nice safe distance.
COY getting lost in a hole
When COY get tired, hitching a ride is the way to go.
Better yet! Mom comes up with a vole in her mouth from digging in the snow!
A couple hundred voles to go to satisfy this grizzly bear's appetite.
Just a warning before getting into this. Nature can be cruel. This post will show some of that cruelness that bull elk can have. There is nothing gory or bloody but it can be hard to watch. Just a warning.
Saturday, September 24th 2016 started out like most other late September fall mornings in Elk Country, listening to elk bugles and trying to get some good photos as the elk move about. U-bull (known from the PGC elk camera for his very wide antlers) had me up at 2:30am, bugling less than 100yds from where I tried to sleep. It's tough sometimes in Elk Country, lol. He was in early looking for cows and other bulls. Deer were in as well feeding on acorns that had dropped.
I was able to photograph this same bull a year ago, at basically the same location. This year he has his antlers all busted up.
A little bit later another, smaller bull came in with a cow.
As the sun came out with blue bird skies, the elk disappear into the hemlocks and darker forested areas. It is almost like they are vampires, staying out of the sun on the warmer days.
After lunch, after practicing shooting bow for the upcoming archery season, I walked out to where the elk had crossed and went into the woods, just trying to see what it looked like in the area. That is when I spotted a bull elk, standing in the woods. Back to the house I went to tell the others and to grab a camera. We all watched him standing there, not moving much at all. He did not seem right, as though he may have been injured in a fight. A good friend spotted what looked to be a hole in his side where may have been gored by another bull in a fight.
Photo of the bull standing, his eyes do not seem alert, his ears are drooped.
While looking him over with binoculars, trying to determine what was going on with him is when we heard it, another bull bugling and coming closer. I raced back to the house to get an external mic for my camera. The woods were thick and taking photos was tough to do. As I got to the house I heard a yell "Hurry!!!, he's here. I scrambled back, turned on the video for my camera and this is what I got.
Last Warning - Nature can be hard to watch at times.
The bull with the broken antler, pictured above, came back and fights with the injured bull. The injured bull is knocked down. This is the last time I would see him standing.
The following is more video and some photos from this encounter. Videos first, then photos. Photos were taken in between videos it is not all in order.
The attacking bull left and the injured bull remained on the ground.
After our hearts quit racing from being witness to all this we made some phone calls and in a very short time, we had Pennsylvania Game Commission Conservation Officers on site. We filled them on what we saw and showed where the bull was still laying. The Officer in charge evaluated the bull at a closer distance, taking his time and getting a good look all around the bull. The Officer said that the bull is scraped up but may just be tired from fighting. He said that he would wait until the next day to see what might happen with the bull. It may get up and move on once rested. There was no blood or anything coming from the bull's mouth. If anything were to drastically change, we were instructed to contact him and he would be back.
Later that evening, guess who shows up. He did not go after the bull during the rest of the day but we have no idea what may happen overnight.
The next morning, it was cool and it was foggy. Imagine that for those that have been up to see the elk. Fog is a common occurrence in the mornings there. A nice bull with white tines shows up in the morning.
I photographed him for a bit and then he heads into the woods as we all watched and said to ourselves "leave that bull alone". The next thing we heard was antlers crashing.
After the fog burned off and we had more daylight we were able to check on the injured bull. We found him laying about 20-25 yards from where we last saw him the night before.
About lunch time another bull had come in and fought with him. All he could do in these fights was swing his antlers a little bit. The last two fights that I heard were very short, 10-15 seconds.
Right around lunchtime the PGC WCO returned to evaluate the bull elk. It was quickly decided to put the elk down.
The bull was a 5 x 8 with a lot of mass to his antlers. A quick measurement around the antler bases showed them to be 14.5" around. I could not wrap my hands around the main beam for a good way up the length of it. The bull was extracted and the meat was divided up among those who helped perform that task. We found the bull was gored mid-spine, eliminating the use of his hind legs. He also had a deep flesh at the base of his antlers from a previous fight. This would smelled of rotting flesh. He also had some front teeth busted out.
These animals are amazing. Visitors typically see a very gentle side to them, just moving along like cattle. What many do not see are the intense battles that go on during the rut or mating season, with bulls challenging and fighting each other for the rights to breed. This is not the first time a bull has been fatally gored and it will not be the last.
This was difficult to watch, video, photograph. It is nature and nature can be cruel.
Hiked up to a rural lake last week in Yellowstone in an attempt to get some otter pics, something that has eluded me during 8 previous trips. Had no idea I would be walking into this scene. Upon getting there two hikers informed me that there were two courting grizzly bears at the opposite end of the lake. I got there just in time to see the one bear leave up over the hill. The second griz remained, coming down to the edge of the lake, staring down an otter as the otter curiously & cautiously checked the bear out, went for a swim with the otter, chased after some waterfowl then made its' way over to a boulder for a good ole bath and back scratch. Pics of the show. Video link at very end Griz was 270 yards across the lake from me.
Earlier snow and rain showers left bands of clouds late into the afternoon letting the sun peak through at a low angle, giving off some great color. Just a couple photo composites taken tonight from a local hill in an orchard.
While elk hunting in Colorado over the last 2 weeks I came across some bolder fields and an animal call I had heard on the internet but never live. This was from a tiny mammal that I have been trying to photograph in Yellowstone for a number of years but they had just alluded me. With a 65# backpack on, with about 4 miles down and 2 miles to go, I heard the call. It kind of sounds like a dog's squeaky toy. With the priority in the trip being archery elk hunting, and my backpack already pretty heavy, I did not take a big lens with me. Later in the week, I got go back to this boulder field with my 50mm lens to take some shots. These are extremely cropped down.
Pika are considered an indicator species for global warming as they cannot tolerate hot temperatures. With warming trends, their habitat continues to decline. Pikas can die in 6 hrs if exposed to temps above 78 degrees.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_pika - Additional info on the Pika.
Uncropped photo to show what I was working with.