Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park is the oldested national park in the United States and the world, 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



Spring 2019



Time to go Fishing!


Mom Osprey, on the nest, was being vocal and perhaps giving instructions to Dad Osprey sitting on the branch.  These ospreys were photogragh just before Lamar Valley in Yellowstone National Park


This lone Coyote was photogragh near the bridge over the Yellowstone River on Northeast Entrance Road in Yellowstone National Park


Baby Bison are called "Red Dogs"  They are very active in the morning.  Photograph was taken in Lamar Valley in Yellowstone National Park


Do you Want to Play?


Red Dogs are born in late April or early May in Yellowstone.  Bison mate in August and September; gestation is 285 days. A single reddish-brown calf nurses until the next calf is born. If the cow is not pregnant, a calf will nurse for 18 months. Cows nurse their calves for at least 7 or 8 months, but most calves seem to be weaned before the end of their first year. At three years of age, bison cows are mature enough to produce a calf. Bison have a life expectancy around 15 years in the wild and up to 25 years in captivity.


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


Peek a Boo Black Bear!


Black Bears are the most numerous members of the bear family in North America, and are found from the Pacific to the Atlantic coast. There are an estimated 500-600 black bears inhabiting Yellowstone National Park.


https://yellowstone.net/wildlife/black-bears


Black Bears are very fast and can run up to 30 mph.  They are also excellent at quickly climbing and descending trees which I witnessed several times in Yellowstone National Park.


Up to 85% of the American black bear's diet consists of vegetation, though they tend to dig less than brown bears, eating far fewer roots, bulbs, corms and tubers than the latter species. When initially emerging from hibernation, they will seek to feed on carrion from winter-killed animals and newborn ungulates. As the spring temperature warms, American black bears seek new shoots of many plant species, especially new grasses, wetland plants and forbs. Young shoots and buds from trees and shrubs during the spring period are also especially important to American black bears emerging from hibernation, as they assist in rebuilding muscle and strengthening the skeleton and are often the only digestible foods available at that time. During summer, the diet largely comprises fruits, especially berries. During the autumn hyperphagia, feeding becomes virtually the full-time task of American black bears. Favored masts such as hazelnuts, oak acorns and whitebark pine nuts may be consumed by the hundreds each day by a single American black bear during the fall. During the fall period, American black bears may also habitually raid the nut caches of tree squirrels. Also extremely important in fall are berries such as huckleberries and buffalo berries.


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


The black bear has a straight face when seen in profile. Its eyes are small and the ears are well-rounded. It has 42 teeth: 12 incisors, 4 canines, 16 premolars and 10 molars. The canines are long and well pointed; the premolars are rudimentary or even missing; and the molars have flat crowns.  People have 32 teeth.


http://www.bebearaware.org/Bears_of_North_America/bears_of_north_america.html


The chipping sparrow is a species of American sparrow, a passerine bird in the family Passerellidae. It is widespread, fairly tame, and common across most of its North American range. There are two subspecies, the eastern chipping sparrow and the western chipping sparrow. This bird is a partial migrant with northerly populations flying southwards in the fall to overwinter in Mexico and the southern United States, and flying northward again in spring.


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


Yellow-rumped warblers spend the breeding season in mature coniferous and mixed coniferous-deciduous woodlands (such as in patches of aspen, birch, or willow). In the western U.S. and in the central Appalachian Mountains, they are found mostly in mountainous areas.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yellow-rumped_warbler


Coyote eating snake near Tower Falls.  The coyote did not appear to enjoy the meal.


Coyote removing snake smell from nose.


Pikas are 7–8.4 in. long, 5.3–6.2 ounces (about the size of a guinea pig); Active year-round; agilely darts around on rocks; travels through tunnels under snow; Breed in spring; two litters per year; Often heard but not seen; makes a distinct shrill whistle call or a short “mew.”; Grey to brown with round ears, no tail. Blends in with rocks; Scent marks by frequently rubbing cheeks on rocks; In late summer it gathers mouthfuls of vegetation to build “haystacks” for winter food; defends haystacks vigorously; Haystacks often built in same place year after year; have been known to become three feet in diameter.


https://www.nps.gov/yell/learn/nature/pika.htm


What a Wonderful Mom!


I was over 100 yards away from this Grizzly Bear Mom nursing her two cubs in Yellowstone National Park.  Grizzly Bear Moms will nurse her cubs for over 2 years, all the time protecting them from other bears.




Baby has an Itch!



Mom Can Stretch while Nursing!



Babies Love to Play!



Harlequin Duck

Their breeding habitat is cold fast-moving streams in north-western and north-eastern North America, Greenland, Iceland and eastern Russia. The nest is usually located in a well-concealed location on the ground near a stream. They are usually found near pounding surf and white water. They are short distance migrants and most winter near rocky shorelines on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. They are very rare migrants to western Europe.


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


The Ruffed Grouse is a medium-sized grouse occurring in forests from the Appalachian Mountains across Canada to Alaska. It is non-migratory.  The ruffed grouse is sometimes incorrectly referred to as a "partridge", and occasionally confused with the grey partridge, a bird of open areas rather than woodlands.  The ruffed grouse is the state bird of Pennsylvania, United States.


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



The ruffs are on the sides of the neck in both sexes. They also have a crest on top of their head, which sometimes lies flat. Both genders are similarly marked and sized, making them difficult to tell apart, even in hand. The female often has a broken subterminal tail band, while males tend to have unbroken tail bands, though the opposite of either can occur. Females may also do a display similar to the male. Another fairly accurate sign is that rump feathers with a single white dot indicate a female; rump feathers with more than one white dot indicate a male.


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



This black bear was photographed on May 29, 2019 in Yellowstone National Park in evening light.


The Black Bear stayed in the clearing for a few minutes before returning to the woods.


Elk in Velvet


Sandhill Crane Adventures

May 30, 2019


"It sure is hard to climb on Mom's back!"


"Almost There!"


"Almost There!"


"Almost There!"


"Oh, That was too Tough.  I Think I will Sleep Next to Mom- I Can Hear Her Heartbeat- My Favorite Sound!"


Sandhill cranes raise one brood per year. In nonmigratory populations, laying begins between December and August. In migratory populations, laying usually begins in April or May. Both members of a breeding pair build the nest using plant material from the surrounding area. Nest sites are usually marshes, bogs, or swales, though occasionally on dry land. Females lay one to three (usually two) oval, dull brown eggs with reddish markings. Both parents incubate the eggs for about 30 days. The chicks are precocial; they hatch covered in down, with their eyes open, and able to leave the nest within a day. The parents brood the chicks for up to three weeks after hatching, feeding them intensively for the first few weeks, then gradually less frequently until they reach independence at 9 to 10 months old.  The chicks remain with their parents until one to two months before the parents lay the next clutch of eggs the following year, remaining with them 10–12 months. After leaving their parents, the chicks form nomadic flocks with other juveniles and nonbreeders. They remain in these flocks until they form breeding pairs at between two and seven years old.


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


May 31, 2019


Oops!  Baby on right fell down walking through mud holes.  Baby on left is being fed by Mom!


Sandhill Crane Family!


The Bison and the Sandhill Crane Family!

June 2, 2019



After finding the baby Sandhill Cranes on May 30, 2019 I was able to watch them for 4 days.  The Yellowstone National Park Staff stated that they had been born on May 29.  By the 3rd day, the babies were following their parents up the grassy slopes so their parents could feed them insects.  On the evening of June 2, the Crane family was returning to the slough where their nest was located.  Three large American Bison were also feeding near the slough and one Bison approached where the Cranes were!


As the Bison got within a couple of yards of the babies, they hide in the slough grass and Sandhill Crane Mom walked to within a few feet of the Bison, calling loudly!



Sandhill cranes defend themselves and their young from aerial predators by jumping and kicking. Actively brooding adults are more likely to react aggressively to potential predators to defend their chicks than wintering birds, which most often normally try to evade attacks on foot or in flight. For land predators, they move forward, often hissing, with their wings open and bills pointed. If the predator persists, the crane stabs with its bill (which is powerful enough to pierce the skull of a small carnivore) and kicks.


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


"Stay Away from My Babies"


The 9-pound Sandhill Crane Mom did not strike or kick at the Bison, loud calling and sudden flapping of wings was enough to startle the 2000-pound Bison.  



"Stay Away from My Babies"


  This is the first time that I have seen a Bison jump away from another animal!



"Stay Away from My Babies"


The 2000-pound Bison wanted nothing to do with an upset 9-pound Sandhill Crane Mom. 



"You Stay Away from My Babies and Don't Come Back"


The Bison did just that and mom returned to her babies.



The Bison was relieved that the whole situation was over. 



American Badger- Battles and Hunting  



Badgers are usually solitary in their habits.  The badger on the left apparently encroached on the territory of the badger on the right.  I just come up on this situation and barely had time to get my camera on the tripod when the chase ensued.



I am not sure how this ended as the Badgers went over a hill.  The badger on the right appeared to be larger but with tail down while the badger on the left had tail up.  The badger on the left may have been defending its territory.


How do Badgers Hunt Ground Squirrels?


Hunting Techniques and Tool Use by North American Badgers Preying on Richardson's Ground Squirrels


Abstract

Techniques used by North American badgers (Taxidea taxus) when hunting Richardson's ground squirrels (Spermophilus richardsonii) were assessed over a 15-year period in southern Alberta to determine the relationship between activity of prey and methods used to capture prey. Badgers frequently hunted hibernating squirrels in autumn, sometimes hunted infants in spring, and rarely hunted active squirrels in summer. Badgers always captured hibernating squirrels and infants underground, usually captured active squirrels underground, and sometimes intercepted fleeing squirrels aboveground. Regardless of season or year, the most common hunting technique used by badgers was excavation of burrow systems, but plugging of openings into ground-squirrel tunnels accounted for 5–23% of hunting actions in 4 consecutive years. Plugging occurred predominantly in mid-June to late July before most ground squirrels hibernated and in late August to late October when juvenile males were active but other squirrels were in hibernation. Badgers usually used soil from around the tunnel opening or soil dragged 30–270 cm from a nearby mound (72% and 22% of 391 plugged tunnels, respectively) to plug tunnels. The least common (6%), but most novel, form of plugging used by 1 badger involved movement of 37 objects from distances of 20–105 cm to plug openings into 23 ground-squirrel tunnels on 14 nights. Aimed movement of objects to plug openings into burrow systems occupied by ground squirrels qualified this badger as a tool user.


Michener, GM. Journal of Mammalogy, Volume 85, Issue 5, 20 October 2004, Pages 1019–1027





On June 1, 2019, I observed an American Badger for 10 minutes as it used its brains, experience, sense of small and digging ability to hunt a Unita Ground Squirrel.  



The Badger indentified two holes to dig out and used its sense of smell to determine which ones to dig.  The badger's sense of smell is very powerful and they can detect an animal in its burrow through soil as well as snow cover. 


https://www.animalfactsencyclopedia.com/Badger-facts.html


The Badger is always on the look out, even when busy hunting and digging.


The Badger's nose was dirty with all that digging.


The Badger's vigorous shaking removed the dirt only to get dirting again from more digging.


The Badger was digging in two holes- would dig one hole for a while, come out, sniff, then go dig further in the other hole.


The Badger then stood up in the hole on the left and used its rear legs and paws to trample down the dirt, blocking the hole.


The Badger went down the hole on the right, came up and stood still for a few seconds then began to sniff around a nearby small shrub.  The Badger appeared to be frustrated.


The Badger had found a second escape hole for the Ground Squirrel which had been cleverly placed near a low shrub making it difficult for the Badger to get to.  The Badger then crawled under the shrub.


The Badger then lifted up the shrub with its back whick allowed it enough room to dig down the hole before plugging it up.


The Badger then went down what was then the center hole and was down there for about 1 to 2 minutes.


The Badger emerged with a Ground Squirrel and quickly moved away and disappeared among the small shrubs.  The Badger had a strategy in going after the Ground Squirrel- it used its sense of smell to figure out which holes to dig out.  The Badger plugged two escape holes using a digging and stamping approach.  The Badger overcame an escape hole under a shrub that was difficult to plug and was rewarded with a meal.



Pronghorn have two sets of teeth- front incisors cut the vegetation while the  back molars chew and grind food- 32 teeth total.


Black Bear May 30, 2019.


About 800 moose inhabit the southern part of Yellowstone, Grand Teton National Park and surrounding national forests.


https://www.yellowstonepark.com/things-to-do/about-moose


  

This largest member of the deer family loves cold weather and frequents marshy meadows and edges of lakes and streams


https://www.yellowstonepark.com/things-to-do/about-moose


Newborn moose have fur with a reddish hue in contrast to the brown appearance of an adult. The young will stay with the mother until just before the next young are born.


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


  

Female moose have an eight-month gestation period, usually bearing one calf, or twins if food is plentiful, in May or June. Twinning can run as high as 30% to 40% with good nutrition.


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


Moose, which are called elk in Europe, are well-known for their impressive hearing. Their ears are more than 60 times larger than those of a human, and their calls can travel nearly two miles.


https://www.theguardian.com/science/2008/mar/21/medicalresearch.animalbehaviour


Moose are the largest members of the deer family, weighing as much as 1200 pounds; they can grow to be 5 to 6.5 feet from hooves to shoulders. This does not include a raised head or antlers, so it's safe to say that the majority of moose tower over all non-basketball players.


http://mentalfloss.com/article/59461/10-gigantic-facts-about-moose



The Cinnamon Bear is both a highly variable color morph and a subspecies of the American black bear, native to the central and western areas of the United States and Canada. Established populations are found in Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Idaho, Montana, Washington, Manitoba, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Wyoming, California, Alberta, Ontario and British Columbia. They also have been seen in Pennsylvania and New York. The most striking difference between a cinnamon bear and any other black bear is its brown or red-brown fur, reminiscent of cinnamon.


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


This Big Horned Sheep was photographed north of Lamar Buffalo Ranch on a walk to see the historic wolf pens.


American Cliff Swallows are extremely social song birds that can be found in large nesting colonies reaching over 2,000 nests. They are frequently seen flying overhead in large flocks during migration, gracefully foraging over fields for flying insects or perching tightly together on a wire preening under the sun.  Cliff swallows build gourd-shaped nests made from mud with small entrance holes. They build their nests tightly together, on top of one another, under bridges or alongside mountain cliffs.  Living in large populations, these aerial insectivores use extensive vocalizations to communicate warnings or food availability to the other individuals.


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


American yellow warblers breed in most of North America from the tundra southwards, except for the far Southwest and the Gulf of Mexico coast.[4] American yellow warblers winter to the south of their breeding range, from southern California to the Amazon region, Bolivia and Peru.  As usual for members of the Parulidae, yellow warblers nest in trees, building a small but very sturdy cup nest. Females and males rear the young about equally, but emphasize different tasks: females are more involved with building and maintaining the nest, and incubating and brooding the offspring. Males are more involved in guarding the nest site and procuring food, bringing it to the nest and passing it to the waiting mother, which does most of the actual feeding. As the young approach fledging, the male's workload becomes proportionally higher'


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

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