Badgers, Foxes, Moose, Eagles, Wolf -- and bison trees bear!

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Badgers, Foxes, Moose, Eagles, Wolf -- and bison trees bear!

Post by Dorothy »

My sister and I (the usual suspects) and another sister visiting from out of state had a wonderful trip to Market Lake/Camas, Yellowstone, Grand Teton and Seedskadee in late May. Haven't had time to post about it (partly trying to figure out how to get the photos downloaded/attached, but no luck), but will try to give a quick report now.

Market Lake and Camas (for the first time) were lots of fun. Camas a bit dry, but still saw lots of water birds and a couple of VERY cute baby great horned owls and a very active red squirrel (along with many other birds) in Market Lake.

It was a rain/snow mix when we got to Yellowstone and immediately saw bison with some fairly new -- and very soaked -- red dogs. Headed out toward Lamar and saw a black bear in the "bear hammock" and a griz with second-year cubs waaayyy up on the side of the hills in Lamar. Overall, saw several bears (mostly black bears -- no close grizzlies), some moose (saw a bear and moose heading up toward Red Lodge -- only went a little ways, as it was snowy and got a bit worried about possible slippery roads), several coyotes, marmots at Sheepeater, some elk, etc., up on the Lamar/Swan Lake flats side of the park.

But there were a few really notable things in our first day or so on that side of the park. Heading down toward Lamar from Mammoth we sighted a black bear with 2 COY -- no good place to pull out, so a quick look, but our first COY for 2-3 years, so exciting. Also spotted a badger near one of the big pullouts heading into Lamar -- it wove in and out of sagebrush for a while, then moved down a ways and out into the grasslands so we got a really nice quite long look at it. Digging, running around, sniffing, tail up at times -- just lots of fun!

Most notable thing we saw came as we were heading back toward Mammoth in a late morning/early afternoon time -- saw something we'd never seen before (don't know if others have seen anything like this) and figure we'll never see again. There were people gathered at a pullout (about the only pullout) just above the Elk Creek drainage area (where there are often bears or moose). The folks said there was a black bear asleep under a tree down below and was believed to have a couple of cubs up a tree nearby. There was one place to park, so, thanks to help from a very nice ranger, we pulled in and spotted where the bear was -- quite a ways down into a valley but visible to the naked eye and a good view through binocs.

Now, we almost NEVER stay to watch to see if an animal is asleep or "went into the woods right there" to see if it will reappear or wake up -- we have such limited time, usually, that we hate to "waste" time hoping to see some action from an animal that is sleeping (usually in trees where, even if it wakes up, it could simply disappear into the trees) or one that has probably moved on through the trees and is somewhere else. Also, once you commit time to wait, it's hard to leave, because we've already spent whatever amount of time waiting, and if we leave, it may get up right after we leave, soooo ....

Anyway, we watched the bear for a little while and figured maybe we'd leave to see if there was something actually moving around and doing something. But hey, we had a GREAT parking place (could sit in the car, out of the sun) and see perfectly where the bear was, and we'd never get it back if we left and then came back and she was up. And, well, we had already invest time in this bear, sooooo....

So we stayed, and in 30-40 minutes she DID get up and grazed around a bit and then headed to a tree where we thought we'd seen some movement before. BUT, as she was heading that direction, here came three bison from the left (toward Mammoth) coming into the little meadow area (there were several trees in several different groupings in the meadow area). They moved slowly into the area in the direction of the bear. The one in the back of the trio suddenly began to buck and jump around and headed up toward the road area (maybe it just became aware of the bear -- a predator, after all, even tho' it really isn't a threat to a full-grown bison). Never saw it again.

The other two sort of moseyed toward the bear ... one the lead, the other following a little ways behind. As the bison came nearer, the bear climbed the tree that we, by now, knew had the cubs in it, way up high. She hung out on the trunk for a bit, then climbed a bit higher to a dead limb that she rested on (the live branches were quite a ways further up, and the cubs even further up, still only visible a bit on occasion as they were staying pretty quiet). The bison continued to move toward the tree until the leading one was only about 20 or so yards away, where it stopped, and the other followed and stopped a ways behind the first. And they just stood there, watching the bear, which was perched completely out of reach of the bison. The bear stayed put for a bit, then began coming down the tree. She leaped off the trunk and headed up toward a little ravine that had several trees in it and led up to a big open meadow at the top. She climbed up a tree in the ravine, and the bison followed after a bit. As they got closer, she jumped out of that tree and moved up the ravine. After a bit, the bison followed, very slowly. The bear reached the end of the ravine and, rather then heading up onto the plateau/meadow, she circled over and came back down into the little meadow area, off to the right, where there were a bunch of downed, dead tree trunks. The bison moved slowly up the ravine, through the trees, and slowly kept moving onto the plateau/meadow and continued on away from the area where the bear/cubs were.

The mama bear remained in the dead tree area for quite a while, grazing and moving among the trunks. Finally, when the bison were no longer in sight for those of us up on the hillside, mama moved over toward the tree with the cubs and must have called them down, because shortly after she got to the base of the tree, two very tiny COY were seen on the trunk of the tree, heading down. Just darling little things! They made it down and mama took them to a tree a little beyond the one they'd been in and settled down underneath it to nurse the babies. Ahhhhhhh! Just adorable. Then back to the downed tree area, with the little ones scampering to keep up, then playing around in the downed trees, walking along them, climbing over them, playing -- just so cute! Eventually, they got quite a ways from the pullout heading toward Elk Creek and were in and out of trees, so we decided to continue on toward Mammoth.

WHAT an experience! It looked very much like mama was pulling the old "broken wing" bird trick to pull the bison away from the tree where the cubs were. Don't know if that is correct, but it was obvious that these bison knew she was a predator, and if she couldn't do anything to them, being VERY big bison, she could kill bison calves or injured young bison, so they wanted to keep track of her -- and she wanted to lead them away from where her cubs were. Whatever the reasons, it was quite an experience (I actually have some photos of the bear in the tree with the bison beneath her, her nursing the cubs, etc., but you'll just have to picture it in your mind).

The next day we headed down to Grand Teton, so headed through Hayden. Got to Grizzy Overlook and there were folks looking up on the hillside -- said there were some wolves who were heading from south (a ways down) to north (where we were), perhaps heading for the den area which was up in the trees way across the valley and up on the hillside. We did spot some wolves (in binocs, could definitely see them as wolves) and watched awhile. Then headed down to where people said they wolves had come from. We got to the two big pullouts and there were lots of people there and said there had been wolves in and out of the area on the hillside. We spotted a couple, but there were heading up north, back toward Grizzly Overlook, so we headed back there. Spotted a few more wolves way out on the hillside there and finally decided we needed to get going so headed back down south. When we got to those pullouts, still some people there who said there were still some wolves around -- in fact, one right down by the river -- and THERE IT WAS! It was up ahead of us and quite close (certainly closer than we'd ever seen a wolf) and was headed toward the road (it was a weird color, kind of calico? -- brown and black mixed, but then, it looked wet so probably had swum the river and that affected the color, and its face was kind of dark brown/black -- and it had a collar). It began to run and was heading toward us! We were in the car, and most of the other watchers were in their cars, too -- it crossed the road right behind our car and headed up a ravine on the other side.

WOW! We've never seen a wolf so close. After hearing about the one that was being hazed in Hayden because it was getting too close to the road (and didn't seem afraid of humans) I wondered if this was the one. Whatever, we were absolutely thrilled to have seen one so close.

Grouse and harlequins on the way down toward Teton (where it was raining hard), and a beautiful, if wet, red fox as we checked out the parking lot at Colter Bay (hey, there was a weasel there once -- if we check often enough, there may be a weasel there again! :) ). Saw several moose (one crossed the road in front of us. and one bull with a pretty good growth of antlers playing in some shallow water, splashing and bucking around), bluebirds, elk, some beavers, etc., in Teton. Had really hoped to see 399 and her cubs -- she'd been seen a few times in the area near Colter, but tho' we checked in the area several times, only reports that she had been seen briefly in one meadow, then disappeared, while we were there. However, we DID see a couple of grizzlies -- looked like a female with a male shadowing her. LOTS of fun to watch them "play" together. Funny story -- there were, of course, LOTS of people parked/standing along the "bear" area and as I drove past and there was finally a bear in the area, there was no place to park, of course, and I really needed to find a bathroom. So, I told my two sisters to jump out quickly and join the group of viewers by the ranger (who was telling drivers to NOT stop the cars in the road, but move on) and I'd go on up, visit a bathroom, and park and come find them. One of my sisters had trouble with her feet, so almost never has her sandals actually ON when she's in the car, so she and my other sister tumbled out of the car and she was shoeless! I tried to reach the footwear to toss them out after her, but couldn't reach them and was being waved on, so on I went! Got things taken care of and headed back, but no place to park coming back that was anywhere close, so headed back through the bear jam with the shoes on the seat, hoping I could find them and toss the shoes to her (it was quite cold and still a bit wet from the rain the day before -- some showers lingering). Couldn't spot them as I came back, so found a place quite a ways down to park and headed up with the shoes. Found them and sis said was fine, wasn't really missing the shoes (neuropathy makes it so she doesn't feel much in her feet) but that she had provided the people around her with a wonderful story to tell their families about the woman who wanted to see the bears so badly that she jumped out of the car without her shoes! Lots of fun and a great view of the bears.

Another really nice view of a beautiful fox near Taggart Lake trail head, and what appeared to be a second-year moose calf with a bad limp down in the river (and then up on the shore) who was all alone and appeared to be looking for a mom. So sad!

Anyway, a really nice wildlife-y (and flower) time there, and some good views of animals in Seedskadee (lots of bald eagle nests, some with very visible parents and youngsters, sage grouse, prairie dogs, moose, a bluebird who still wants to meet that other beautiful bluebird in our side review mirrors -- he just keeps perching on our windowsills and flying in front of the mirrors, trying to meet that rival!

All in all, a great trip, with lots of animal sightings and, as usual, seeing something we've never seen before -- one great thing about wildlife is that even if you've seen a bear or a moose or anything else before, you always have a chance to see it behave in a way you've never seen before!

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Joined: Thu Apr 30, 2020 10:55 am

Re: Badgers, Foxes, Moose, Eagles, Wolf -- and bison trees bear!

Post by karenandbill »

Hey Dorothy, Sounds like you had another fantastic trip! The bear/bison interaction would have been great to see. I agree that no matter how often you see a particular species of animal, you never know when you're going to witness a different behavior. That mamma was definitely leading the bison away from her cubs.

The wolf encounters sounded awesome also. Glad you got to see one so close. It's the Wapiti Lake Pack that has been hanging around Hayden Valley. There are at least 2 in the pack that match your description.

If you would like some help in posting photos, we can guide you through the process. Just let us know. We would love to see your photos!

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Joined: Mon Jan 15, 2018 5:11 pm

Re: Badgers, Foxes, Moose, Eagles, Wolf -- and bison trees bear!

Post by smiley »


This is the wolf hazed on May 22, 2021 just south and around the corner of Grizzly Overlook.

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