American magpie, Bald eagle, BBC, BBC Wildlife magazine, Bighorn sheep, Bison, Cooke City, coyote, Don Hartman, elk, Golden eagle, Great grey owl, Jackson Hole, Lamar River, mountain goat, Natural Habitat, Raven, red fox, Rick McIntyre, Silver Gate, tracking wolves, Yellowstone, Yellowstone National Park
USA 2018 (13), Wolves? It was still dark – and minus 33ºC/minus 28ºF – when we set off at 7 a.m., to look seriously for wolves on this Tuesday morning, 20th February. After all, the name of the trip was ‘Yellowstone: Ultimate Wolf and Wildlife Safari’. We were essentially retracing the last part of our journey the day before, westwards from Cooke City, which is just outside the north-east corner of Yellowstone National Park, back along the Lamar valley, and then continuing parallel with the Yellowstone River westwards a little further. At our first stop, where we looked in vain for a wolf pack before the sun had even risen above the mountains, we saw water vapour rising from the creek, as if a hot sun were evaporating the water prior to a scorching hot day! But I was told it was case of thermal inversion. Our next stop, for ‘comfort’ purposes, was in yet another beautiful spot. Then we pulled up again, when we saw a group of photographer tourists parked and looking upwards – at four sleeping coyotes, of which here are two.
We arrived at the furthest point intended for the day, where there was a good chance, we were told, of seeing a given pack of wolves. We met Lizzie, who spends much of her time tracking the animals. She passed round a collar which had been round a wolf’s neck, and that felt quite spooky to me. It was pretty heavy, and we were reminded that the wolf is a very large animal, though it’s difficult to realise when you see them from a distance – IF ever we should see them, from a distance or no. No luck this morning and we made our way back to Cooke City for lunch, quite slowly as we kept seeing interesting things and stopping.
Plans for the afternoon were to meet a wildlife cinematographer, and then to have an individual choice between: resting for a while, going snow-shoeing, or further wildlife searching. Most people seemed to be going to opt for the last, including me. But then all plans changed. Wolves had been seen, where we had been that morning. So we ‘rushed’ off there, as safely as we could, but even so it took about an hour. En route we saw…
Arrived at the same spot as the morning, we met Rick McIntyre, who gave us a fascinating talk on the ecology of the animal. [PS, three weeks later. Rick is featured in a fascinating article on one of the Yellowstone wolves in the March edition of ‘BBC Wildlife Magazine’.] But the wolves had gone. ‘Hang on, there they are!’ the cry rang out from one of the leaders (now three as Tim from Nat Hab had joined us.). A very, very long way away. I was not the only one not to see them, whether through binoculars, cameras, or telescopes. Try, try and try, no, we just couldn’t. Moreover, it was said they were disturbing elk and bison, which would have been even more fascinating to see. But no, not many of us saw them. Not us amateurs anyway. I took several photos of where we were meant to be looking, hoping to blow them up and at least see them on my screen.
No such luck. ‘They’ve gone now’. We left the scene, and made our way back towards Cooke City.
However, we stopped at Silver Gate, just a short distance from Cooke City (not a city but more a large village, by the way). Our stop there was to meet the very patient Don Hartman. But then wildlife photographers are used to being patient.
I was especially thrilled to meet him. In post (5) of these USA 2018 posts, I mentioned that there had been a second BBC series on Yellowstone just before I left for the trip. Don Hartman had taken its amazing footage on the Great Grey Owl family through the seasons. He show us some of this footage, some more which didn’t make the cut, and other work of his, then answered many questions. What a surprise and privilege to meet him, and here he is.
It was dark as we left for another good meal in Cooke City. But a little warmer (!) as we bade each other goodnight, minus 25ºC/minus 13ºF.
[My apologies for the changes of type, which I have no idea how to correct. Retyping has made no difference. Any advice from fellow WordPress bloggers would be gratefully received.]