Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Day Two in Yellowstone: A Detour Brings Surprises!


According to the Wolf Conservation Center's Alex Spitzer, the WCC Yellowstone Adventure has been full of surprises!

The Road Not Taken

What an interesting start to the day! When Nathan came to pick us up, he came bearing news that the majority of the park was closed due to unknown reasons. We decided to head into Mammoth Hot Springs and followed the only open road to the Swan Flats. On the way to Mammoth, however, make a quick stop to view a coyote running across the plain next to our bus. Once we arrived at Swan Lake, we spent some time viewing a Sandhill crane and various water foul. After about 45 minutes we decided to head back to see if the road to the Lamar Valley was open. Lucky for us, the road had been opened. A bit down the road across from the buffalo ranch in Lamar Valley, we found an incredibly rare find, a badger. Linda noticed the badger by the huge piles of dirt it was throwing into the air. We watched him dig until he caught a ground squirrel and then he ran back a ways to eat it. If that wasn’t exciting enough, at Soda Butte, we saw at a good distance F820 and another member of the Lamar Canyon pack scratching away at a log. We were a bit puzzled this behavior until we saw the wolves run off to chase a coyote away. Just when we though the coyote had learned its lesson, we noticed it running back up to the log before being chased off again by the wolves. We think that under the log the wolves were digging at was a coyote den and the wolves were trying to get the coyotes. We couldn’t think of any other reason that the coyote would keep coming back.

After these wonderful sightings, we started heading off toward Dan Hartman’s house in Silver Gate, just outside the northeast entrance to the park. Not to far from his house we had one more amazing discovery, a moose. We didn’t get to see it too long before it ran off but we were all pretty amazed. When we arrived at Dan’s house, we spent quite a bit of time looking at the photos in his gallery. Dan is an amazing photographer who does a lot of photo work for various documentaries for National Geographic and BBC to name a few. We ate lunch while watching a slideshow of Dan’s newest photos. As were about to leave, Dan called us back to see one of his famous residents, a pine martin. After awhile of being observed, it decided to hit the road and we did the same. On the way back to Gardiner, we had the great opportunity to get some pretty good footage of a black bear not too far from the road. By this point, we were all in awe of how the day had changed from so many road closures to such great wildlife viewing.

We were pretty sure the day couldn’t get much better but we soon found out that Jim Halfpenny, probably the world’s best-known animal tracker, president of A Naturalist’s World, and the author of over 25 books, was joining us for dinner. Over dinner we discussed many of Jim’s projects and following another amazing meal by our chef Zac Kellerman, we went downstairs to see the worlds largest collection of animal tracks and to discuss what the benefits of keeping such an extensive collection are. After looking through the collection which included a dire wolf skull, we turned in for the night and prepared for our final day in the park.

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