Bears, wolves, geysers and homo sapiens: Yellowstone has it all in abundance

Yellowstone, the American Serengeti, has lots to offer but it isn’t for those with crowd-phobia, at least in the summer. So my first order of business in Yellowstone was to somehow adapt to seeing these masses of homo sapiens that pile here like dry fall leaves that you just can’t seem to rack up! Saying that I passed with flying colors would be a complete exaggeration but I managed well enough to enjoy all the wildlife and scenery of Yellowstone.

My pleasant crowd-phobia teacher

My pleasant crowd-phobia teacher

This is a long post, making up for 2 weeks so let me start by sharing a  shot of a typical river valley and mountain vista in Yellowstone:

Bighorn Pass at Sunrise

Before I get into the plentiful wildlife, I’ll share a few tales of our hikes in the park. Lamar valley below is absolutely gorgeous and one cannot help but think of Wild West as you walk through it looking at bison herds.

Lamar River overlooking Bliss Pass

The trek up Buffalo Plateau on the northern fringes of Yellowstone was anything but a ‘walk in the park’. We hiked straight uphill for almost 11 kms in blazing heat and sun. The prize was the ever better view of the Rockies surrounding the park; strange that the actual designated campsite was another grueling 2 kms OFF the trail into bug capital with NO view even of open space let alone alpine valleys! Note to self: do not camp at site 2B1!

Trek up Buffalo Plateau

Taking rest at one of the few 'trail markers'

Our front country camp at Slough creek was the best the park has to offer (if you can manage to get a spot and ward off stalkers) and was right by the beautiful creek and surrounded by mountains and offered some of best wildlife viewing opportunities, we saw a black bear right next to camp one beautiful morning.

Slough Creek camp

We also toured the Mammoth Hot Springs which makes for a great trip since all the sulfur in the air makes it hard to distinguish any other sort of wind. It wasn’t me! I swear!

Mammoth Hot Springs

Mammoth Hot Springs - no bathing here!

Let’s start with wildlife then: first up is Grizzly bears , the BIGGEST reason for me personally to make this pilgrimage. Coming from east, Yellowstone is the first place in North America where you can witness these gentle giants in their natural setting. Two things to note about that sentence: 1) ‘gentle’ giants and 2) natural setting.

The first hints to the fact that there’s a lot of misunderstanding surrounding the Great bear and its ferociousness and tales that any close encounters end up in injury to one of the parties. These are in reality our perceptions of the bear and couldn’t be further from reality. There are hundreds of told and untold tales of peaceful encounters where the bear was minding its own business so long as we observed the mutual respect and did not let the bear feel threatened.

Grizzly mother and cubs peacefully grazing sage brush

Grizzly mother and cubs peacefully grazing sage brush

Bears have a lot more to fear from our encounter than us from theirs. Dozens of bears are killed every year when they are reported to have been aggressive or when they find food in campgrounds. In almost all cases, we are to blame. Just last week in Yellowstone, a brilliant camper had enlightenment: he thought to prepare extra beef stew and keep it in his tent in case he got hungry again later!!! Sadly, a male Grizzly got hold of it when the genius was away and now the grizzly will be relocated and shot if needed. What’s worse is that it was a mating pair and now the male will be separated from the female.

The second note was about natural setting since I’d much rather see them in the wild than in a zoo or worse, a circus! The grizzly has very little of its original habitat left. England and most of western Europe no longer has bears — human fear killed them long before the Magna Carta. Plains grizzlies no longer roam the breaks of Saskatchewan and Missouri rivers.

We had many amazing encounters with the Grizzly in Yellowstone: we imagined the great bear prowling the shadows in the forest as we lay in our tent while the Ursa Major glowed bright in the night sky overhead. We saw couple of grizzly sows (females) with coys (cubs of the year) in the grizzly flats and swan lake flats close to Indian Creek campground, our first stop in the park. One had two cubs and the other had four which is exceedingly rare!! They were very far from the road (clever mums) so we don’t have good shots of them. Yellowstone park is full of ‘bear management areas’ which are prime bear habitats so we are not allowed to hike in till mid-late July for their and our safety.

From the up close encounters, we have the few shots below to share: the first set is from a grizzly sow with 2 coys that was grazing sage and digging bugs and roots just a few feet off the Mt Washburn hiking trail in broad daylight. I’ve also added our happy shot from making it to the peak under brutal sunlight 🙂

Grizzly Sow Mt Washburn trail

Grizzly Sow Mt Washburn trail

Mt Washburn Peak

Mt Washburn Peak

Then there was the time when we had slept at a trailhead on the Yellowstone lake and woke up to find this big guy munching on dandelions literally 30 feet away from the van. While we watched, amazed, a dark grey wolf passed in the background:

Silvertip Grizzly up close

Silvertip Grizzly up close

It was also quite cool to see this sow below with three coys on an elk carcass in Hayden valley. There was also a coyote watching from a safe distance as well as a lone wolf which looked injured form the way it walked. Seems to be a funny relationship between bears and wolves, they seem to have a love n hate relationship like old couples, but always around each other!

Yellowstone Grizlly Sow and three cubs on elk carcass

Grizlly Sow and three cubs on elk carcass

Black bears crossed our paths when we least expected. One was right next to our campsite at Slough Creek and gave a fine show by climbing a fallen log and walking across it:

Young black bear walking on a fallen log

Young black bear walking on a fallen log

Then there was this brave yearling, probably recently cast-off from his mother, having lunch close to the bridge crossing Yellowstone river and even made his way across the bridge to get onto the other side without trouble. Now, if only the migrating wildebeest in Africa could figure this trick out before jumping headstrong in the river facing hungry crocs:

Black Bear grazing!

Black Bear grazing

Yellowstone Black Bear: Time to cross the bridge

Time to cross the bridge

We saw a few wolves and pups but usually spotting through binoculars and WAY out of range of most cameras so don’t have any good shots to share. Wolves are generally much more elusive than bears but much easier to see in Yellowstone then elsewhere since their reintroduction here from Canada in 1995. The original wolves of Yellowstone were all hunted in the early 20th century and were reintroduced when the park management realized their importance in a balanced ecosystem.

Other notable wildlife in Yellowstone is bison. They can be seen by the hundreds in the Lamar valley. We also had a few ‘bison jams’ on the road as they are self-appointed kings of the road when they should so desire. I wasn’t gonna take any chances with making more dents in the van so we usually chilled until they got bored of the same old and moved off the road. On the plus side, their calves are super cute:

Yellowstone Bison jam

Bison jam!

Lunchtime for bison calf

Lunchtime for bison calf

three siblings: bison calves

three musketeers

Other great wildlife we saw in these 2 weeks:

Even elks get an itch

Even elks get an itch

elk skull

this one didn't move much

On a lighter note, you’ll be delighted (we sure are!) to note that showers have become much more common and frequent lately, especially since we made our very own ‘shower spots’ map of Yellowstone! We are in Grand Teton at the moment and will be posting an update on that shortly. Look forward to jaw-dropping mountain vistas that is the home of the Tetons . Don’t ask about what the ‘Teton’ means yet, I’ll reveal those single-minded Frenchies later ;-))

You can see the full album here:

11 Responses to “Bears, wolves, geysers and homo sapiens: Yellowstone has it all in abundance”

  1. Qiming Says:

    good pose bro!

  2. Christine Gonsalves Says:

    Amazing wildlife! And the landscapes!!! Thanks guys for letting me explore with you, I love the pictures and the very detailed stories. THANK YOU!

  3. Fowler Says:

    Really really amazing photos, and the classic Sagi pose tops it off nicely. I am happy to see you are doing well.

    Take care!

  4. Brigitte/Biguschen Says:

    Herrliche Aufnahmen! Ich fühle mich so, als würde ich mit durch diese Landschaften gehen, die Tiere hautnah miterleben. Weiter so!!! Bin sehr gespannt auf die nächsten Bilder und Berichte.

  5. Wildlife Trail Cameras Says:

    the name of the genus followed by the “species modifier.” For humans, Homo is the genus and sapiens is the species modifier. Wildlife Trail Cameras

  6. top satellite tv Says:

    Many thanks for your write-up! I still see these TV shows to date, and I never get sick and tired of them, great shows.

  7. free xbox 360 Says:

    Greetings I’m curious if I can use this post in one of my blogs if I link back to you? Thanks

  8. free microsoft points codes Says:

    Hi there I’m itching to know if I may use this post on one of my blogs if I link back to you? Thanks

  9. Weiyi Shi Says:

    Wow! looks great! enjoy your trip~

    I’m also finishing my post and will return home soon~

  10. Delmer Margeson Says:

    It\\\’s wonderful right here. good study. I have been looked the information for some time. thanks

  11. Brigitte/Biguschen Says:

    Wunderschön!!! Bei der Wanderung in den Hoodoos wäre ich gerne mit dabei gewesen. Ich bin gespannt wie es weiter geht.

Leave a Reply