Saturday, September 6

Return of the wild kingdom

Last night we ventured out at dusk for some wildlife spotting in nearby Hayden Valley. All the guide books tell you this is when animals are most active around Yellowstone - especially at dawn and dusk. We weren’t disappointed. Within minutes of reaching the valley's broad grassy flats we spotted a roving herd of Bison and almost transformed a bounding Chipmunk into road kill.

However the highlight of the evening occured when the herds of Elk came down to the water’s edge to drink and graze. Garry and I were thrilled to see a couple of bucks with their characteristic crown of antlers. Unfortunately, the light was fading and our photos have turned out rather pixilated.

This afternoon we were rewarded with yet another memorable wildlife encounter. Garry spotted a couple of Mule deer standing in roadside bushes. As we pulled over for a closer look the deer decided it was now safe to cross the road. Much to our delight they gingerly stepped on the asphalt and crossed directly in front of us.

This means we’ve now seen Pronghorn (an antelope-like deer), Elk and Mule deer in the park since Wednesday. We’re still hoping to see some bighorn sheep before our vacation ends.

Earlier in the day we enjoyed another unexpected encounter. While visiting the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone we spotted an Ospery nest precariously perched atop a narrow rock pillar. We were thrilled as its owner held vigil while we watched.

We spent the remainder of our afternoon in West Yellowstone, just outside the park, at the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Centre. The centre is a refuge for injured and orphaned animals no longer able to fend for themselves in the wild. It also houses several bears and wolves conditioned to humans. These animals have lost their fear of humans and persistently venture into towns, campgrounds and the like. The centre takes these animals into captivity to prevent them being shot.

We saw four magnificent Grizzly bears, including Sam, a 450kg bear from Alaska. They show him alone as he’s become rather territorial. He was really was huge, with enormous paws and rather deadly looking claws. As I said to Garry, “I have no idea if bears shit in the woods – but – if I ran into that thing in the wild I certainly would.”

No comments: