"A Sand County Almanac"

"THERE ARE SOME WHO CAN LIVE WITHOUT WILD THINGS AND SOME WHO CANNOT."
"FOR US IN THE MINORITY THE OPPORTUNITY TO SEE GEESE IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN TELEVISION.".....Aldo Leopold

"THE TABLES TURNED"

"COME FORTH INTO THE LIGHT OF THINGS. LET NATURE BE YOUR TEACHER"....William Wordsworth


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Dead Bison Provides a Banquet In Yellowstone


Not far from canyon junction there was a large number of people lining the road.  Slowing to a stop we asked someone what the traffic jam was about and we learned that a bison had died within sight of the road.
Of course, we stopped and started watching, along with everyone else…anticipating that some type of carnivore would come to feed on the carcass.  The following photo was taken at 80mm to demonstrate approximately how the scene looked without magnification…

 
We returned every morning, trying to arrive before sunrise, hoping to photograph whatever might appear.  The first carnivore to arrive while we were present was a coyote.  It ate quickly and left, probably to feed a litter of pups that were waiting at a den nearby…





On a couple of visits nothing came to feed, but the excitement was high among the other photographers who had waited all day on the previous day.  They reported that two grizzly bears and a black wolf had fed on the bison in our absence.  This reinforced our determination to return each morning with camera and spotting scope.
Finally, a grizzly bear did arrive and began feeding…
 
 
 This was the opportunity that we had been waiting for, and for the next several days I took hundreds of images of the activity at the carcass.  Many of the photos were taken before sunrise, and the rest just after. 
The carcass was approximately two hundred yards from the road and it was quite a struggle to obtain useable images.  Even with 600mm equivalent magnification, all of the images are cropped nearly fifty percent…


 
At times, when the bear was away for a nap or a drink, the coyote would slink in to get as much as it could before the bear returned... 

 
A turkey vulture also arrived to pick at the carcass when the bear and coyote were absent...


On the fourth day a different, larger, grizzly bear arrived to feed...


 
Park rangers and bear managers were able to determine, from his ear tags, that the new bear was a male originally tagged in Idaho...
 


From that point on, the two grizzlies took turns feeding on the bison...

 
Even sharing with the coyote when it was brazen enough to steal a bite...
 


 
 

 
The coyote and the two grizzlies were the only carnivores that we observed feeding, but there is no way to know what other critters came under cover of darkness to eat…


As the days went by the carcass rapidly was reduced to a skeleton, and then to bits of hide and hair…
 

 
 
We were privileged to spend so much time observing this part of the circle of life.  Thanks for letting me share it with you.

Before ending this post I have to give credit to the rangers, and bear managers, who kept the traffic moving and the many photographers and tourists in line.  I am among the first to complain and criticize when I don't think they do a good job, so I want to say to them...WELL DONE!
 
Stop back soon for the next post from Yellowstone.
 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

American Bison, Iconic Symbol of Yellowstone

When thinking about Yellowstone National Park the first animal that comes to many people's mind is probably the bison, often also referred to as buffalo. 

These large beasts can range from 800 to over 2,000 pounds.  They can be seen in most areas of Yellowstone, grazing in herds made up of cows and calves or, sometimes, in small groups of bulls or individuals...
 
 

 
 
 
One morning in the Hayden Valley, we watched as two young bulls swam across the Yellowstone River almost directly towards us...
 
 
 
 
Bison, it seems, do not like to remain wet when leaving the river...
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
  
Bison bulls also do not like to be clean for very long.  Especially when the rut, or mating season, is approaching. This one is pawing at the ground to loosen the soil...
 
 
Then he uses his horns to loosen it even more...
 
 
He also urinates on the spot where he has made his scrape...

 
 
 
When everything is to his liking he rolls, or wallows, in the mixture of dirt and urine...
 




 
 
 
All of this is done to make him more attractive to the cows that are approaching estrus...
 

Bulls often rub their heads against trees at this time of year.  Since they do not have velvet on their horns, as antlered animals do, I am not sure if they are leaving a scent marker on the tree, or strengthening their muscles for the combat with other bulls that will come as the rut advances...


Bison are usually not bothered by the presence of humans, but a mother with a calf or a bull during the rut, can be a very dangerous animal.  Always remember that bison are wild animals and, as such, are unpredictable and potentially dangerous.


Thanks for visiting and stop back soon for more from our Yellowstone trip.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Grand Vistas In Grand Teton National Park

My next blog post will be to share photos of our trip into Yellowstone National Park.  I can't finish my trip report about Grand Teton without sharing some of the scenery, flowers and mountains.  Our daughter, Sarah, hiked to Static Peak with a friend and sent us some photos...





Wildflowers were blooming everywhere.  I will share some of them throughout this post...

 
The following section of the Teton range offers spectacular sunset and sunrise photo opportunities...
 











 
 















When one first arrives in Grand Teton National Park the beautiful mountain scenery is so overwhelming that it is easy not to notice the smaller examples of natures beauty.
Thanks for visiting. Stop back next week for images from Yellowstone.