Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Winter Wildlife of Yellowstone National Park


             It's a February afternoon in 2009 and my husband Tim and I are in the lone car arriving at Yellowstone National Park’s north entrance today.  We stop at the visitor center and are told there are wolves at Tower Junction, 20 miles down the road.  So that’s where we’re headed.
At Tower Junction we find people with spotting scopes; they point to a lone female wolf lying in the snow on a far ridge.  We set up our scope and focus on her.  The wolf's coat, a mixture of tawny and gray, shimmers in the afternoon light.   She's gorgeous.  We watch her for awhile; she rises, trots down the hill and lies down again.  Then she raises her head and howls.  Her cries echo through the valley—primal, haunting, soul-stirring.  This is my first sighting of a Yellowstone wolf and I'm mesmerized, thrilled to be in her company.  

After the wolf sighting we drive to a pullout and see people focusing their binoculars on a distant tree.  We take a look and spy a giant golden eagle perched at the top of a dead tree high on a ridge line.  The eagle is surveying his kingdom, perhaps looking for a taste of a recent wolf kill.  
        Returning to the park entrance we photograph elk, bison and bighorn sheep and spot three coyotes lounging in the snow.  This has been an exceptional day for winter wildlife-viewing in Yellowstone.

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         On that February day three years ago Tim and I were too far away from the wolf to take pictures of her.  If you would like to view pictures of Yellowstone's wolves, click here.

          If you're lucky enough to be touring Yellowstone during the winter season, it's a good idea to stop at the Visitor Center to learn about recent wildlife sightings.  The rangers are not inundated with people—as during the busy summer months—and they're happy to share their time and wisdom with you.

To learn more about the wolf recovery program in Yellowstone National Park, visit this site:  http://www.nps.gov/yell/naturescience/wolves.htm


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          Enjoy the following wildlife photos from the Lamar Valley in northern Yellowstone:

A lone bison in the Lamar Valley.


Mule deer in a meadow.


Bighorn Sheep browsing on winter vegetation.


Elk foraging on a wind-swept hill.


This bison was near enough to the car to
get a good shot with a telephoto lens.

The bison uses his massive head as a plow,
burrowing through the snow to find food.

A Bison and her calf face a chilly day.




3 comments:

  1. Hi Rita,

    Your visit to Yellowstone in wintertime was thrilling to read about - I can just imagine hearing that wolf call or spying the eagle. Love your bison photos. What magnificent creatures. (Much better than my rhino photos in Nepal where all we managed to capture was shots from the rear: very uncooperative wildlife in Nepal!)

    Thanks for sharing this story.

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  2. Rita: Love your photos, and also love the various links that you posted for other photos related to your posting!
    I particularly like your picture of the lone bison in the Lamar Valley. Another of your bison photos that I found interesting was the close-up that you got with the telephoto lens. The bison's eye-color appears to be blue. Wonder if it was just the way the light was hitting it, or if that particular fellow just happened to have blue eyes??

    John

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    Replies
    1. John, I think the blue color was due to the lighting—pretty sure I've never seen any blue-eyed bison!
      Vickie—wildlife viewing in Nepal must have been amazing! But you're right, the bison in Yellowstone were very cooperative that day.
      Rota

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