Yellowstone Winter Trip 2011
Go to my Blog for other behind the scenes reports of my treks into the field.
It has been a harsh winter with heavy snow levels and extreme cold temps. The demographics of wolves in
the northern range has drastically changed from just a few years ago. I expected wolf
sightings to be few and far away, and they where. With that said it was still a good trip.
This was the year of the fox! The reports of fox sightings being up this year proved to be true.
The first fox sighting we had was on the north side of Lamar
Canyon about half way through. It was sleeping in a curled up ball.
This little guy didn't mind the attention at all. In fact he slept
until he was good and ready to get up. When he did get up, he did in
one quick jump to dive in the snow to catch a vole for breakfast. I
don't know that anyone got the shot. There was a lot of drats going
on! Including from me!
The second sighting was in the Lamar Valley south of the Institute.
It was working it's way east and we were heading west. We
turned around and went back to the pullout at the Institute and got
a few shots as it turned north and crossed the road just west of the
Institute. It was walking into a strong headwind. It amazes me how
the winter coats of all these animals keeps them warm. The temps
in winter get extreamly cold, and then add wind, and it can become
unbearable. The coldest temp we encountered was -43 degrees f.
The third sighting was also on the north side of the Lamar Canyon,
east end. This fox was also sleeping, but was up on a knob covered
in snow. However when it decided to get up,
it gave us a real treat. It pranced around for a good
while, providing a variety of poses and backgrounds.
While this was playing out it was discovered there was an elk
kill just about 150yds. west of where we were.
It was reported two coyotes had been feeding on it. There were no wolves in the vacinity, and
the Lamar Canyon wolves had just fed on a kill in Little America. This gave other critters
such as coyotes, fox, and eagles a chance to feed.
This carcass lasted for almost a week. It was about
60yds from the road on the north side. This gave a good
opportunity for a variety of wildlife shots. While
providing much needed food for all.
The Big Horn north of the confluence of the Lamar River
and Soda Bute Creek put on a good show for some closeup shots. Finding grass is difficult
for all the grazers, with the heavy snow, they have to dig through
and plow it away.
The snowfall this season may have some devastating results
this spring. Many elk and bison have left the park in search for
lower ground to graze. Hundreds of bison
who left may never return. Other bison in
the interior parts of the park may fall
victim to Old Man Winter because they were not able to get to lower
ground. I think the bears will have a feast with winter killed bison
and elk this spring.