Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park is the oldested national park in the United States and the word, established in 1872 under President Grant.


The Park is very large with over 2 million acres, more than the combined size of Delaware and Rhode Island.  In 2015, over 4 million visitors entered the park, most during the summer when some facilities were overwhelmed.


My favorite time to visit the park is during the winter, when animals are easier to see.  However, in 2006, I participated in a week long wilderness canoe trip with youth to Shoshone Lake and had a great time.  Shoshone Lake is the largest backcountry lake in the United States not accessible by road.


The park is home to one of the world's largest calderas with over 10,000 thermal features and more than 300 geysers. It has one of the world's largest petrifiied forests. It has nearly 300 waterfalls with the 300 foot Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River as the best known.  Yellowstone Lake is the largest (132 sq. mi.) high altitude (7,732') lake in North America.

Yellowstone National Park


Bighorn Sheep

Yellowstone National Park

Wyoming


Coyote

Yellowstone National Park

Wyoming


Bighorn Sheep

Yellowstone National Park

Wyoming


Winter Landscape

Yellowstone National Park

Wyoming


Elk

Yellowstone National Park

Montana


Bighorn Sheep

Yellowstone National Park

Wyoming


Coyote

Yellowstone National Park

Wyoming


Winter Landscape

Yellowstone National Park

Wyoming

Winter 2019 Yellowstone

Junction Butte Wolf Pack of Eleven Attack Five Elk


The eleven member Junction Butte pack approached from the right, walking in line in the deep snow, conserving strength for the wolves following the leader.


As the pack got closer, the lead wolf branched up slope with six wolves following so they would be running down hill when they chased the elk, four of the wolves stayed on the original approach.


The five elk positioned themselves in a defensive position the the youngest (smaller antlers) in the center while the lead wolf approached the elk


The youngest elk panicked and left the group briefly while the older elk stood their ground.  The young elk quickly returned to the other elk.  The lead wolf's strategy to confront the youngest elk was temporarily successful.


Six wolves appproached from the left while five wolves stayed above and to the right of the elk.  The perimeter to the right may have been composed of younger wolves who were observing the actions of their more senior pack members.


The elk were finally spooked and took off as a group with the majority of the wolf pack in pursuit.


The wolf perimeter collapsed as the elk ran down hill.  One wolf got close the the elk who broke away from the other elk.  The elk were able to escape!


It was 30 degrees below zero Fahrenheit the week I saw this bald eagle above the flowing Lamar River.  Most bald eagles migrate out of Yellowstone Park during the winter but some stay year round.  Open water means available fish.


The North American river otter lives in Yellowstone's rivers and lakes.  They grow up to 4 feet long and can weigh up to 30 pounds.  The can swim under water for up to 2 to 3 minutes.


Yellowstone National Park conducted a 5-year Yellowstone Raptor Initiative led by Doug Smith, a study designed to collect baseline data on golden eagles, red-tailed hawks and Swainson’s hawks with a lesser focus on American kestrels, prairie falcons and owls. That study ended in 2015.  Considering the mountain habitat and high elevation of Yellowstone’s Northern Range, the region would appear to be marginal golden eagle habitat. They are more at home in the desert, grasslands or tundra — areas with wide swaths of open ground inhabited by rabbits, marmots, ground squirrels and other small mammals.  Yet the raptor initiative found 28 golden eagle territories, the majority of them in the Northern Range — which is the area roughly between the North and Northeast entrances to Yellowstone.  Golden eagles like to feed on wolve-killed elk remains.


https://billingsgazette.com/outdoors/yellowstone-s-golden-treasure-big-eagles-focus-of-recent-study/article_3be8a4ad-06b4-52f8-b1fe-03213fae2869.html


How Do Bison Survive Winter in Yellowstone National Park?


During the cold winter season, bison develop thick, woolly coats that help protect them from freezing temperatures and harsh winds. It is said that a bison's winter coat is so thick and provides insulation so effective that when snow accumulates on its coat, it will not melt from the heat of the bison's skin. Their skin also thickens in response to cold temperatures and fatty deposits appear to insulate the animal.


https://www.nps.gov/articles/bison-bellows-12-31-15.htm


Bison also have the ability use their large head and massive neck and shoulder muscles as snow plows to forage in snow as deep as four feet!


The reward for using their head as a snow plow is delicious brown and dry grass!


Bison use their tongue to keep their nostrils free of snow after snowplowing for grass!


Snowplow!


Snow Shower!


Year Round Water Bird


The Amercian Dipper inhabits the mountainous regions of Central America and western North America from Panama to Alaska and  is equipped with an extra eyelid called a "nictitating membrane" that allows it to see underwater, and scales that close its nostrils when submerged. Dippers also produce more oil than most birds, which may help keep them warmer when seeking food underwater. The American dipper is usually a permanent resident, moving slightly south or to lower elevations if necessary to find food or unfrozen water. The presence of this indicator species shows good water quality; it has vanished from some locations due to pollution or increased silt load in streams.  It feeds on aquatic insects and their larvae, including dragonfly nymphs, small crayfish, and caddisfly larvae. It may also take tiny fish or tadpoles.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_dipper


Big Horned Sheep


About 10 to 13 interbreeding bands of bighorn sheep occupy steep terrain in the upper Yellowstone River drainage, including habitat that extends more than 20 miles north of the park.  In 2015 , there were 329 in the northern Yellowstone area(163 counted inside the park).


https://www.nps.gov/yell/learn/nature/bighorn-sheep.htm


Bighorn sheep live in herds or bands of about 5 to 15 ewes, lambs, yearlings, and two-year olds. Groups of males are much smaller, usually numbering two to five. In the winter, the ewe herds join to create bands of as many as 100 animals.


https://defenders.org/bighorn-sheep/basic-facts


Two hundred years ago, bighorn sheep were widespread throughout the western United States, Canada, and northern Mexico. Some estimates placed their population at over 2 million. By around 1900, hunting, competition from ranching, and diseases had decreased the population to several thousand. A program of reintroductions, natural parks, and reduced hunting, together with a decrease in domesticated sheep near the end of World War II, allowed the bighorn sheep to make a comeback.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bighorn_sheep


As opposed to the American bison, who feeding during the winter in deep valley snow, big horned sheep prefer steep windswept terraine where the snow is less deep and where the sheep can uncover vegetation by using their feet (hooves)


I like this photograph for the shadow!


Head butting takes a toll on horns!


It is hard to believe that they can survive winter by eating dry grass but they do!


Little cutie with a frost head!


Exhaled air condenses at minus 30 degrees F!


Black-billed magpies are tolerated by big horned sheep as the birds will remove ticks and other skin parasites from the sheep!


Black-billed Magpies are social, inquisitive birds that eat fruits, grains, insects, small animals, and frequently gather in large flocks at carrion.


Coyotes watch for black-billed magpies to find carrion and magpies follow coyotes to eat left overs from a coyote kill


Not happy!


Snack time!


Keeping the nose clean!


Reaching for breakfast!


Lamar Buffalo Ranch


Moose


Approximately 200 moose are in Yellowstone National Park

Copyright © All Rights Reserved