Our stay so far in the Lamar Valley in Yellowstone National Park has been filled with frequent, incomparable sights. About a half a mile out into the valley was a bison carcass with many different animals coming to the site to feed on it at different times of the day. For a full five days, in the mornings we watched the Lamar wolf pack at the site. During the day there was usually a visit from at least one coyote to say little of the near constant feeding by the Ravens and as many as three Bald Eagles. In the evenings, like clock work, just at dusk a grizzly would come out of the woods from behind the carcass and feed. The grizzly that fed on pretty much the last of the carcass Tuesday evening was huge and could be seen from the road way with the naked eye despite being a half a mile out in the valley at dusk. Early last Tuesday morning, we were lucky enough to witness five adult wolves feeding on the carcass, this is a sight we’ll never forget.
We were able to see all this from the “enclosure hill” area. Enclosure hill is where the wolves were first held in a fenced area and then released into the park. To us, enclosure hill is a historic area but is not even marked by a sign of any kind. There’s just a nondescript fenced area on a hillside overlooking the Lamar Valley.
We could happily spend all our days here, except of course in the winter (we prefer warmer places in the winter). The Lamar Valley, though it lacks most of the geo-thermal wonders that Yellowstone National Park is known for, is perfect for the kind of adventure we enjoy which is wildlife viewing. We will return here to the Lamar year after year for this reason.
Tips for those interested in viewing wildlife in Yellowstone–
We have frequently been asked “how do you find these great spots like the carcass with animals feeding on it?” Our answer is always the same…just ask. For example, people visiting Yellowstone drove by (going about 45 miles/hr.!) the place where we were watching the five wolves. I’m sure many of those people will leave the park saying they looked but they didn’t see any wolves or grizzlies. Some folks were wise enough to ask “what are you seeing out there?” we would tell them so they could pull over and be as amazed as we.
If you come to Yellowstone and want to see wolves, moose, bear, etc. stop whenever you see folks with spotting scopes all looking in the same direction. People that spend a lot of money on a spotting scope are frequently the people who are pretty good at spotting wildlife and some of them are there to help spot wolves for the Park Service (especially in the Lamar Valley). Most people are friendly and will tell you what they are seeing and let you look through the scope to witness the wildlife being wild for your self.
Drove the scenic Chief Joseph Highway from Yellowstone to Cody during the week to look around. This is a spectacular drive as is the drive from Cody, Wy. into the East entrance of Yellowstone. The Buffalo Bill Cody Museum in Cody is filled with Western paintings and spectacular sculptures and is well worth a visit. This is a cute little town with many services for the traveler. We are told they have only a “little” snow here in the winter because the winds are so severe the snow seems to be mostly blown away from the town according to some of the town folks we queried. Um, sounds plausible.
We are able to connect to the internet using our Millenicom Wi-fi in the Pebble Creek Campground in Yellowstone National Park. This blog was posted via the Millenicom in the campground.
We boondocked last night again at Robe Lake with just beautiful views of the water, the woods and surrounding Chugach Mountains. Woke to a temp. of 45 degrees F. and a light rain. Actually, we heard it rain at a moderate rate all night. We’re planning on going out on a cruise on Prince William Sound today so we’re hoping this place will act like Camelot and only rain at night for a day or two. We shall see but we’re going out on the cruise, rain or shine. Heard a lot of bird calls at the lake and saw a bald eagle fly over in addition to an armada of ducks in the water. Though I know there are large animal wildlife somewhere out in the distant woods, we haven’t seen any around the lake.
We got a tip that the area of Prince William Sound near the Fish Hatchery was a good place to go and watch for seals. Then someone else told us that in the same area, we might see Brown Bear fishing in the evening, sometime around 8:00 pm. So we headed for the fish hatchery area at 7:30 pm and found a crowd of people standing on the walk way, cameras up, looking at the beach. Saw a few young men fishing off the side of the road and they had clearly caught a few fish. Looking further up along the shore, there was a Mama Brown Bear with her four cubs!
We were told by a ranger that the difference between a Grizzly and a Brown Bear is habitat. Grizzlies live in the interior where food is tough to find and the bear frequently have a lower protein diet making each grizzly need a very large area to range to look for food so they are quite intolerant of other bear and people. Brown Bear usually live within ten miles of the coast and their diet contains much more protein making them more tolerant of other bear and people. Both are still quite dangerous and the most dangerous is the mama bear with cubs.
Rarely do bear have so many cubs. That’s a lot of mouths to feed in any species! The mortality for bear cubs is high so this mama we were watching has her work cut out for her.
We stayed in this location for about an hour watching the mama catch fish, bring the fish up on the shore and begin to eat it. The cubs join in eating some of the fish and the mama tolerates them sharing in her catch. She does not feed them however and they must come to her and take some of the fish for themselves. At one point the mama crossed the road to the woods with a fish in her mouth and the four cubs following, She ate the fish in the woods, likely sharing it with them and nursed the cubs while in the bushes. Then she crossed the road to go fishing again but one of the cubs had trouble getting down the hill and she returned to get him then they all crossed the road together and she resumed fishing. Wow! Can she fish. Catching the fish with her mouth or claws, she was quick! Oh, what a great opportunity to watch a brown bear in the wild! Never thought we would get to see one so close especially a sow with cubs!
The crowd watching the bears with us last night was composed of folks from around the world (Belgium, Germany, Japan, etc.) and Americans from various states. We’ve listened to and read a lot about bear safety and while no experts we do know a few safer behaviors. This was clearly not the case for everyone in the crowd last night watching the mama bear fish. No one was crazy enough to go down on the beach with the mama and cubs but a few did other risky things. When the mama bear crossed the street some people ran away. One man ran right by the bear like he was a gazelle, which is a very dangerous thing to do. Running can get the bear’s “chase” instint going, they focus on the runner and chase the runner down. Luckily she was focused on her cubs and fishing and did not give chase. Another thing a few people did was approach the cubs to get a better picture of them crossing the road (either they are brave or suicidal). There were other human behaviors that amazed us such as letting a few little kids run free making lots of “little kid noises”. Turned out, this mama bear was unusually tolerant so all there remained safe and folks have lots of great stories and pictures to take home.
Cruise on Prince William Sound–
We will be going out on a cruise today and may return very late tonight so will likely post about it tomorrow. Here’s hoping we get to see some whales out there.