Yellowstone in Spring

“It was still dark as we arrived at our watch point in the upper Lamar Valley, Yellowstone National Park and climbed the short distance to set up our scopes..  We train our optics on an area on the far side of the river valley, among the sage scrub.  For the past two days we have been watching the local Wolf pack enjoying the Bison kill that is lying in the undergrowth and on this day we decided to make an early morning vigil.

Black Wolf (Duncan Macdonald)

The growing light allows us to make out a large, dark lump among the sage and we try to make out features.  We know it is moving and we assume that it is a seething, feeding mass of black wolves as the majority of this pack are.  As our eyes adjust we soon realise that it is the back of a large Grizzly Bear and the wolves are snapping around it’s legs.  The bear ignores them for a while, as it feeds, before swiping out at the wolves and eventually standing up to intimidate them.  It them slams back to the ground and runs off for the cover of the conifer and aspen forest nearby.

Black Bear (Duncan Macdonald)
Brown black Bear (Duncan Macdonald)

This is a regular incident in Yellowstone National Park since wolves were re-established here in the mid 1990’s.  The coming together of these two top predators is something that we want to find on our trips to Yellowstone National Park and we have had some extraordinary sightings over the many years that we have been leading tours there.

The return of the wolf has had a remarkable effect on the whole ecology of Yellowstone National Park.  As Elk eaters primarily, their main prey cannot rest on their laurels any longer and so areas that were once heavily grazed by the Elk are now rebounding with vegetation.  Areas to benefit include riparian woodland.  Here the willow is growing encouraging Beaver to return to Yellowstone National Park in increasing numbers.  These architects of the landscape then provide nursery areas for invertebrates and fish; Moose like the increasing willow and species like American White Pelican benefit from the increased fish stocks.  The ‘Yellowstone National Park Wolf Project’ has provided scientists and visitors to witness the positive benefits of this trophic cascade.

Elk (Duncan Macdonald)
American Badger (Duncan Macdonald)
Mountain Bluebird (Duncan Macdonald)
Baby Yellow-bellied Marmot (Duncan Macdonald)
Uinta Ground Squirrel (Duncan Macdonald)

There are plenty of other critters to be enjoyed in Yellowstone and the smaller Grand Teton National Park.  Uinta Ground Squirrels are a firm favourite with our guests as are the chipmunks; Least, Yellow-pine and the rarer Uinta Chipmunk.  Yellow-bellied Marmots have their young when we visit in the spring, while peeking for the North American Pika is always good fun.  Spring in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National parks is full of fresh life.  Black and Grizzly Bear females have given birth during hibernation and are out and about when we get there, Wolves have given birth to pups and we hope to find a den, young Elk and Moose are wobbling around on their stick-like legs and Osprey eggs have hatched.  It is a vibrant, colourful time of year to visit.

Strawberry and Snow (Duncan Macdonald)
Bison herd (Duncan Macdonald)

Of course I cannot carry on here without mentioning the geothermal features of Yellowstone National Park, after all, they are the very reason the national park exists!  From geysers, mud volcanoes and travertine terraces Yellowstone National Park has the world’s largest collection of features and it is all down to the fact that just beneath one’s feet there exists a super volcano.  We spend some time around the geyser basin where Old Faithfull, faithfully erupts along with others such as Riverside, Beehive and Daisy.  We visit the Fountain Paintpots where bubbling mud and prismatic pools are the main features.  The Travertine Terraces at Mammoth Hot Springs are stunning to visit in the early morning when the air is cool, the sky is blue and the steam makes for an ethereal experience.”

Mammoth Hot springs (Duncan Macdonald)

Our tours to Yellowstone National Park in 2020 and 2021 are in the spring, so why not join us? We know every corner of this area and with contacts within both National Parks we know where the action is! If you would like to come with us to Yellowstone, you can book online, email or phone us on 01479 812498 for all queries.