Tuesday, July 5, 2016

The Wild Life

Our internet access here, in this outpost of Northwest Wyoming, is pretty bad. Our wifi is the Verizon Mifi, as they call it, that depends on cell coverage which is weak throughout Yellowstone. For the most part, we’ll have to wait until we get to a park hotel and pay for wifi access to put photos here. Can't wait, we've had a flurry of natural experience our first few days and the supporting pictures are fun.
Here’s what we’ve seen:
Trumpeter Swan. This graceful paddler also has power in that thick neck. It is the heaviest bird native to North America. The geese stay away. The Trumpeter can have a ten foot wingspan.
Grizzly. Surely one of the world’s great beasts. At six hundred pounds, it can run faster than any human. We purchased and carry bear spray for this visit. It is a long range spray of pepper concentrate. They avoid humans, but, if you are hiking into the wind and you come upon one because there was no scent, well, they do not like to be surprised. In the Hayden Valley area of the Park we watched one at a rivers edge, fishing. We were about 100 yards away and gasped as he swiped at the water bringing up a three foot long fish. Carrying it in mouth, he moved away from the water to a flatter spot and set about consuming the catch. He’d dig at it with chef’s claws, dislodge some meat, bend his neck to gulp it down then raise his head to look back and forth to make sure there was nothing approaching that may encroach upon his meal. It took about five minutes to devour the good parts, then our grizzly lumbered off, content with his tummy full of sushi. It took about half a second for the ravens to zoom in on the fish carcass. The cleanup crew.
Mama Black Bear and Cubs. Breathtaking and so endearing. Taking the lead of a couple of first spotters, we pulled into a turnoff in a hilly area of the Park, to see just across the two lane road this lovely black bear with her two, absolutely adorable, cubs. A ranger on the scene said they were about five months old. One scooted up a tree then scooted right down, head first. Oblivious to the gathering crowd of bear-crazed humans, mom came closer to us on her family outing in the woods. We watched as she taught them how to rip apart a downed, rotting tree to get a few licks of the insects inside.  One cub took her vacated place to give it a try. On its first try to rip at the wood it lost its balanced momentarily and almost fell off the log. Then it turned to see if mom was watching, it seemed, then went back to clawing at the wood. We had a good twenty minute viewing session before they disappeared into the thick growth.
Wolves. We had heard there was an observable den in this remote area of the Park’s northeast. We went early one morning to find a crowd already gathered. The den was a distance away but we were given views in spotting scopes that Yellowstone employees had set up. We did spot a grey and white “teenager” and two pups. Cathy and I have booked a wolf watching trip with a guide next week. Looking forward to that.  I love the wolf.