Friday, December 10, 2010

Yellowstone in Winter

Winter is the best time to see the Park. The magic and the beauty would be plenty of reason, but think about how the animals have to struggle to survive in this harsh environment. We see elk, bison and many others trying to dig into the snow to find nourishment. And meanwhile they are expending energy just getting to the food. And the nutrition in the grasses, etc. is not much of anything. In addition, there are many fewer visitors in the Park at this time of year. But there are hazards. I'll enclose a photo of a Institute Bus in a slide off. No damage, no injuries, just traveling at 30 miles per hour and the ice on the road sucked the bus into the ditch.
Other facts about Yellowstone make it an interesting place. Such as the Bison. There are about 4000 in the Park. One of the few herds that are genetically pure. No cattle DNA in these bison and there are about 500,000 bison in North America. So it is extremely important to keep these animals in an environment that allows this to happen.
The thermals in the 35 by 45 mile caldera also make for dramatic viewing in winter. They have been getting better equipment to monitor the earthquakes. As a result when there is what they call a swarm, they can count how many. This year has been the most active with over 3200 quakes, mostly very minor and with no danger of anything major happening. So be sure to come and visit and see all these exciting things happening!!! Steve

Saturday, December 4, 2010

A Pile of Otters

We saw these otters yesterday near the confluence of the Lamar River and Soda Butte Creek. They seem to have a den near there and it is one of the few places where the river is not frozen over. In addition there have been numerous sightings of big horn sheep on the road between Gardiner and Mammoth Hot Springs. The picture above is an especially good looking ram.
With all the snow the wolf watching has been good and the wolves seem to be getting plenty of elk prey. The Lamar Canyon pack is hanging out near the Buffalo Ranch and all of them look healthy. We are headed to Gardiner to spend the night at the Yellowstone Association Overlook campus as well as get in some skiing.
The next class begins on Monday, it is "Painting Yellowstone in Winter" and Linda is going to support and maybe pick up some painting pointers. Steve

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Snowed in at Lamar

We had planned a trip to Livingston today, but the road is closed. The snow started Saturday with about 18 inches. There are only three plows, two are in the shop and one is stuck. So Mike, the Ranger here closed all the roads, from the East entrance to Mammoth. We'll see how soon they open. At any rate the first "Food for the Masses" class was a success. They only recorded on one carcass and each five minutes the entry was "bear on the carcass". So it probably was a wolf kill, but the grizzly had a better idea of who should consume it. The class saw all the packs in the Northern Range, the Agates, Blacktail and Lamar Canyon, about 30 wolves total. There seems to be plenty of prey, many elk. The carcass we did visit after the wolves were done was an elk calf. In addition we witnessed the Blacktail pack, about 16 strong, try to take an elk. There was a great chase, the elk easily out running the wolves. This was observed from the Hellroaring overlook. But since Saturday and the big storm, no wolves have been spotted. The signals are out there but the visibility is poor and the wolves might be bedded.
The next "Food for the Masses" class has started and they are getting a lot of classroom time. We're looking forward to Thanksgiving. Since we are off the grid, have plenty of propane, two turkeys, it should be fun.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Private tours and happenings

Linda had a memorable birthday with all of our sons and their families, as well as my Brother, his wife and two friends from Missoula appearing on a Friday night. It was a complete surprise to Linda. We organized a private tour on Saturday in the Northern Range and a tour on Sunday through the Park before the road closed on Monday. This is with the Yellowstone Association and one of the ways to stay at the Buffalo Ranch. The other way is to sign up for one of the many programs they offer. It was the best birthday present ever!!!
This past week the Greater Yellowstone Coalition had one of their programs here at the Ranch. Many wolf sightings and other animals. The Coalition has as their charter to protect the whole Yellowstone ecosystem both for the animals as well as the environment. See the web site for details. It is a different focus from the Yellowstone Association.
As a part of the program we viewed a new video by Bob Landis. It is called the "Black Wolf" and will air on the National Geographic channel on Thanksgiving. For those of you who know about "Romeo" or number 302, this is an interesting story.
Lastly I should mention a new TV program on the Wolverines that will air on Sunday, the 21st of November. But, I am afraid this in only for Montana PBS and Spokane PBS. As they say, check your local listings. The book that I read this summer is called "The Wolverine Way" and was most interesting. The author is doing the program.
The cold has arrived, this AM it was 17 degrees Fahrenheit. Steve

Thursday, November 4, 2010

We're back at the Ranch

Linda and I have returned for our second year, we'll be here for November and December. Lots is happening in the Park, over 3.5MM visitors this year, a record!!! The drama with the wolves never ends. The Druids from last year are gone, but a new pack has replaced them, the Lamar Canyon Pack. That is not to say that the other packs are dormant. The count in the Park went below 100 at the end of last year. But as of right now the number is about 126, so there has been an especially good year for pups. And the browse because of good moisture was above average and the deer, elk and bison appear to be in fine shape.
We observed the Lamar Canyon pack in June when they were just coming out of the den by Slough Creek. On Tuesday we saw them and when they were against the adults, you could tell the difference. But they look great, four pups and three adults. The Silver Pack has also been in the Lamar, but there was a mortality signal from one of the collared wolves. They will try to recover the collar and do a necrocopsy on the animal to determine the cause of death. It probaly leaves only one wolf in the Silver, so it will not be considered a pack anymore and it will be interesting to see where that wolf goes.
The elk are just starting to come down to the Valley, the snow is driving them and that should help the wolves. Since the elk are so healthy the wolves are going to work for food. We visited a carcass on Monday, an elk calf that had been cleaned to the point of bare bones after only two days.
I supported the first class, "Are Wolves worth the effort" and Linda is supporting the second, "A Deeper View of Wolves". Both of these classes are full of information about the Park, the animals, the genetic, environmental, and behavioral aspects. Lots of good info that I will not attempt to relay, but in addition there were hikes to dens, to carcasses and plenty of watching of wolves. The Lamar and Yellowstone are the perfect place for these types of activities.
I'll attempt to do this about once a week and do invite any comments or critiques since I do not have a background in journalism.