Saturday, December 19, 2009
Friday, December 18, 2009
The past few days I've been working on my pictures. Here's a collection of some recent ones - many of the wildlife images from Yellowstone are from roadside encounters - we've seen coyotes, elk, bison, wolves, otters, fox, and many birds. Of special note is the bison calf, it's only a few months old, very unusual for this time of year. We first saw it during a "bison jam" on the road where we had to stop and let them pass - then yesterday I spotted it again with its mother and other bison grazing off the side of the road. The otter was an unusual sighting - we know about where they hang out and every time I pass that spot I stop and check it out - yesterday I was lucky!
Saturday, December 12, 2009
We have our share of celebrities here in the Park. This week David Brancaccio was doing a piece on the wolves and probably the results of the first hunting of wolves in Montana and Idaho. His show is www.pbs.org/now and the result should air sometime in January. Watch for it. In addition there is a Nature series and on January 17 they will air the latest grizzly/wolf video. It is called Clash and the filming was done by Bob Landis, who we have seen on the road daily as well as presentations here at the Ranch. The last class of the Food for the Masses is finished and we got to visit several carcasses. The amount of debris left after the ravens, coyotes and wolves work on a carcass is minimal. Just a little hide and some bones. The winter study with the Park end on December 15. Now we have some free time and the temperature is reasonable, above 0 degrees, so we hope to get back to our hiking and if we get some snow, cross country skiing. Steve
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
The wolves were introduced into Yellowstone in 1995. At the peak there were well over 100 wolves. But in recent years the population has declined to about 80. The official count isn't until the end of 2009. The same has happened with the major prey, the elk. There were some 19,000 elk in the northern range in the late 90,s and now the count is down to 9,000. It is possible that an equilibrium is being reached. Most of the deaths this year have been from other wolves, probably 13 wolves killed that way. The browse of willow and aspen that was depleted from the high number of elk is starting to recover which brings in other animals such as the beaver. To give an idea of the capacity of a wolf, their stomach can hold 20 pounds of meat. But they do not usually eat that much. Also, the teeth of the wolf are only designed to bite and tear. They can't chew, so they have to depend on the canine diet of meat. There are different studies of the Yellowstone wolves, in fact one individual, Rich, has been watching wolves in this Northern Range of Yellowstone for 9 years and 5 months, every day of the year, without a break. The Park has what is called the winter study going on right now and another in the spring. They track the wolves from the ground as well as from the air. The radio collars enable the studies to get data that would be very difficult to obtain otherwise. So they know for instance that the major prey is the elk and the elk who are killed are mainly the older and diseased animals. We are learning a lot about the ecology of this area as well as seeing many different birds and animals. But right now we are dealing with a cold spell, the official low yesterday was a minus 22 and the high was minus 6 Fahrenheit. Too chilly to be enjoyable. More later, Steve