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Old 23 Aug 19, 12:27 AM  
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kirstenjet
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Bear Bums and Dino Bones Road Trip - Day 9 Wolves, Picas and Bears Oh My! Part 1

I barely slept all night cos I'm a big kid and was far too excited as it was our guided wildlife day so was ready to get up at 4am.

I'd picked Yellowstone Insight due to a trip report I'd read on Trip Advisor. It wasn't something I'd booked lighlty as it was almost $700 for whats called an all day tour thats 5am-1pm. The price includes being driven round the park, the use of binoculars, a spotting scope and food & drink.
I'd decided to go for it as I wanted to give us the best chance of seeing wolves and bears, I didn't want to come all this way 'for nothing'. Plus it would give me the chance to really take the park in as a passenger, not having to keep one eye out for animals and one for the road!

4.55am we went downstairs and MacNeil who runs Yellowstone Insight was already waiting for us with lovely hot coffee. After much faffing on my part, (have I got my sunglasses, eek wheres my clear glasses, hold on I put my jacket down looking for my glasses... ) we were off.

MacNeil gave us a brief rundown on his history working as a ranger in American National Parks, including pointing out the house he'd lived in as a ranger in Mammoth that had started life as a prison. All day he was full of fascinating stories about the history of the park, the politics of the park and his time in it. First thing he'd asked us was what did we want to see? Our answer was of course EVERYTHING!
But mainly bears and wolves. I had expected we'd head straight out to Lamar Valley, but he suggested we try the other direction past Swan Flats first as they'd been regular bear sightings there in the past week. Obviously nothing is guaranteed, the animals are wild and could be literally anywhere, so he makes no promises.
First thing we found were a pair of Sandhill Cranes, these birds are a massive, about 4ft tall and are the oldest still living bird species.

We also saw some trumpeter swans in the same area. We'd not long started driving back down the road when he quickly pulled over and jumped out the car, saying he seen something. He had the spotting scope set up in less then 10 secs and it was a wolf, Rachel saw it through the scope but when I looked I couldn't see it and when he checked again it was gone. Ah well, couldn't complain, I knew it was unlikely to see one. Rachel was over the moon and declaring it was worth every penny for the 10 secs glimpse she'd got! We stood around waiting in the pullout just in case it came into view again. Another car pulled up to see what we'd spotted and they said they'd just had a wolf run out in front of their car near Indian Creek campground. MacNeil asked a ton of questions pinning down where it had happened then we headed off see if it was still around.

We drove down to it then back up, checking at all the pull outs but nothing. He asked if we wanted to go back and try again or move on but we said for him to do whatever he thought was best. He had a feeling that we should try once more so we back we went. We'd got to as far down as were were going and drove in to a big pullout to turn round giving up, when he just stopped the car, said WOLF! and jumped out without even parking. Yet again for a minute I couldn't see it and needed some guidance to spot it in the grass, but there she was a beautiful sandy coloured wolf. Close enough to be seen without the binoculars or scope!


Turned out she was not alone, this guy was with her

We watched her mousing, while the black one just seemed to be relaxing. I spotted there were adult elk further up the hill behind them and MacNeil was explaining to us how the the group of female elk meant there were elk calves hidden in the long grass somewhere and thats probably what had attracted the wolves. All of a sudden the female wolf took off at full speed and there was a high pitched squealing. Her mousing had disturbed a calf and it had panicked and ran. The mum came charging down the hill with a loud bellow trying to distract the wolf but it was too late the wolf caught and killed the calf. Turned out there was actually 3 wolves in the field we hadn't spotted and they all joined in eating the caught breakfast.


It was thrilling and fascinating to watch but also heartbreaking as the mum stayed nearby the whole time they were eating it.



It was truly an amazing experience and it wasn't til later when MacNeil was telling someone else about it (everyone shares info at the pullouts) that I realised just how rare it was to see a chase from start to finish and at such close distance.

We stayed there for almost 2 hours watching them until the weather turned so bad we couldn't see them through the snow.


Some more hot coffee to warm us up and we were back on the road heading to Lamar Valley, all excitedly talking about what we'd just seen. Next we stopped into a pullout just past Golden Gate where there was piles of rock below us to look for Pika (cute almost mouse like creatures with MASSIVE ears!) and I spotted one as soon as I got out the car but they're far too quick and I never managed to photograph it when it popped out. I did get this Marmot who wasn't so quick! It shows how changable the weather is, this photo was taken no more than half an hour after the snow one!



Part 2 to follow as I'm falling asleep and don't want to lose what I've typed up!
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Old 23 Aug 19, 07:07 AM  
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Loopylooloo
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The wolves are so beautiful but how heartbreaking for the mama elk! 😢 what an incredible experience for you to have though.
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Old 23 Aug 19, 10:45 AM  
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anji
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Wow you were so lucky! Poor elk but the wolves need to eat too - Circle of Life!
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Old 23 Aug 19, 08:42 PM  
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mickeymouseears
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Wow ! can't wait for the next installment
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