Thursday, October 27, 2011

Yellowstone Wildlife

The first stop we made after entering the park was to observe a herd of elk grazing along the roadside. This was only the beginning of a wealth of wildlife we had the privilege of seeing. The stag kept watch over his harem and their young in the golden meadow. On the opposite side of the road, extremely close to us, was a member of the harem and her baby. We quickly learned to keep a lookout for cars stopped along the road. This usually meant an animal sighting. We had gone only a short distance further before a line of cars alerted us to a large herd of bison across a river. We traded photos with a young couple who had also stopped to observe the bison. Although they currently live in Manhattan the husband told us, with a nod to the herd, that he was originally from Buffalo Grove, a suburb of Chicago. They mentioned how they had expected to be disappointed due to the road closures but so far were pleasantly surprised.

Further down the road, on a short hike to the first of the geysers we were to see, a single bison wandered between the trees no more than 40 feet from us. As we were returning to the car, congratulating ourselves on such a close encounter, we saw another bison standing in the center of the parking lot 5 feet from our car seemingly posing for the awestruck tourists and their cameras.

Ducks and geese were omnipresent in the river and wetlands.

The first encounter with bison was by no means the last. At one point, 2 came trotting down the road, followed by 3 others moving at a more leisurely pace. A traffic jam was caused by a mother and her calf standing in the middle of the road. Obviously, this bison mom, unlike my human one, did not give her child the lecture about playing in traffic. Or perhaps the young bison was particularly headstrong and refused to listen.

We spotted two juvenile male elks pushed out of the herd by the stag searching for females to start their own herd. After a time, elk and bison sightings became almost routine.

Wolf sightings were more rare. The first we saw moving through a field. The second we watched for some time hunting and catching small prey in a meadow. The third crossed the road just ahead of our car.

Driving down another road we watched a herd of deer ford a river and climb up the opposite bank.

Noticing a car pulling into a scenic turnout lead to our most exciting and memorable animal sighting. In a field we spotted a grizzly bear, which is very rare. As we watched, a bison ambled by seemingly wondering what all these people were so excited about. Then a man, who bore an almost uncanny resemblance to a young George Clooney, his large,  muscular arms filling out the sleeves of his black tee shirt, pointed out a small herd of deer crossing the far edge of the field. We marveled at our good fortune in seeing 3 different types of animals, including the elusive grizzly, in this one field.

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