One can’t visit Yellowstone NP and get an appreciation of what it has to offer in just one day … not even in the winter when most of the roads are inaccessible. Even though we were a bit short on time, we spent 3 full days there.
Now wildlife abounds in Yellowstone and one of the more famous resident species is the elk. Many sightings of elk were encountered, both the females and the males. Of course, at this point, they had all dropped their antlers, but still had most of their nice winter coats.
You had to be careful of them too, as they sometimes crossed the roads with very little warning. Of course, when there’s one, there’s usually more, so the key is to proceed with caution.
Entering the park via the Gardiner entrance, the first area of Yellowstone that you come across is the fascinating Mammoth Hot Springs area – the first of many thermal grounds within Yellowstone.
Viewing the thermal features of the park, it’s easy to forget it’s not all hot springs and geysers and that this was still winter. Icicle formations hanging over the rivers were equally impressive this time of year. Snap back into reality.
Proving that yesterday’s bighorn sheep encounter wasn’t just a fluke, we ran into them again… over and over. 🙂
I’m always fascinated with wildlife when I get to photograph them from their viewpoint, like in this image below. What an amazing place that they currently call their home. I couldn’t help but wonder what this big guy was thinking too.
OK, you know how your pets love to bask in the sunshine? Well, these sheep are obviously no different. LOL
Another first for us, though admittedly not an great shot, was not just one, but two juvenile moose – hanging out together in the vast expanse of Lamar Valley.
One of the most difficult wildlife encounters I’ve ever dealt with was the story of a bison who had unfortunately fallen through the ice into a pond not far from the road. We watched it struggling in a life or death fashion to try to free itself by climbing out of the partially frozen pond. We could hear it gasping for breathe with each attempt … so did the predators out there as well.
This curious coyote arrived on scene to check it out. At one point it sat down, waiting for an easy meal, but soon must have sensed the time wasn’t right yet and retreated.
I photographed that poor bison for hours, praying beyond hope that it would emerge victorious. Tom sensed my sadness and though he was stronger, I’m sure he felt sad as well. He didn’t want to go back the next morning (poor guy didn’t want to deal with me upset yet another day), but I had to have closure. Again I prayed that it would be successfully freed. Worst yet, I feared that it might be still struggling. Sadly, it had perished during the night and a coyote was doing its best to begin to feast upon it. Such is nature’s way and the circle of life. It’s a tough life out there for wildlife … for that matter for all of us. It was by far the hardest thing I’ve ever witnessed and it still brings tears to my eyes when I think about it.
After that, I look at the bison differently … I know that sounds weird, but I do.
We encountered some younger bison learning how to jostle each other. It’s all fun and games now, but one day it will be more about that status and superiority.
These bison learn from a young age how to alleviate the many insect pests that congregate near their faces and in their fur. A swift roll about on the dusty landscape is just what this bison’s doctor ordered. LOL
We did see wolf, but the sightings were mostly from afar. The howling of the wolves was prevalent quite often and two of the packs intermingled at one point and were a cause for concern amongst the wolf-watchers.
Coyote sightings, a lone coyote each time, were pretty common as well and always entertaining as they scrounged around looking for a quick and easy meal.
We were very fortunate that our days in the park, though a bit chilly, were quite sunny and beautiful. The eastern entrance of the park, towards Cooke City was quite snowy also, so it did intermittently remind you that it was winter.
Our last wildlife sighting while in Yellowstone was on our last evening. To our surprise, a bull elk was grazing all by itself under the canopy of the trees. Even more surprising was that it still had its antlers … and a fine rack at that. Go figure. With that sun setting and that gorgeous golden light being cast upon the landscape as it did, it was the perfect way to end our day … as well as our winter Yellowstone NP trip.
Well, until next visit to Yellowstone we said our goodbyes. Who knows what the next visit will bring ??? Now, off for some snowboarding and skiing!
Next up: Antelope Island State Park
© 2015 Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography