"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




"LOOK DEEP INTO NATURE, AND THEN YOU WILL UNDERSTAND EVERYTHING BETTER".....Albert Einstein


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.
 

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