Saturday, July 8, 2023

Wildlife sightings out west: Bears, bison, coyotes, mountain goats, moose, deer and elk



Arrived back in the Adirondacks today [Monday, July 3] after two days of being driven from West Yellowstone to Webster (and another four hours to get home from there today.) Made a stop at the Remsen bog on the way here and some of the showy lady’s slippers were still out. [I] also stopped to check on some of my Loons along the way. Some were still sitting, and others had hatched their chicks and were on the water with their young. So, if you are out and about on the water and see a family of Loons, give them some space and take pictures with a long lens.

Back out in Yellowstone [National] Park, one of the pictures in last week’s column was a Grizzly Bear with two cubs. The cubs played around the edge of the meadow as mom fed on grasses. They climbed small trees and played on the logs lying on the ground. That day in the park was “bear day,” as we saw another Grizzly Bear right beside the road, digging for ants in a tree stump. [However,] the Ranger there had people moving right along at that spot, and [we had] no time for a photo. We saw three black bears and one was feeding right by [the] parking area, making it legal to stop and get some photos. Some people were out of their vehicles to get a better photo, but we didn’t have to get out.


The first black bear was way off in the distance, and you needed good binoculars (or a scope) to see that one. The group who spotted that one was from Shelburne, Vermont. You really had to look closely, or you would have missed it. Some people were using their phone through a scope and getting pretty good photos. I didn’t even try with my 400- camera lens. The last grizzly bear was right out in the open, feeding on grasses in a meadow only a couple hundred feet away.

Old Faithful

Old Faithful. Photo by Nathan Lee.

We [didn’t see any] wolves, but heard many reports of them in that Lamar Valley. No luck, so we tried for another pack in the Hayden Valley. We saw a few people with scopes set up, so we stopped to see what they were looking at. They told us that for the last two nights a pack of three [wolves] had come into the valley from their den (which was over the hill in the back.) While standing there, a Park Ranger came up the hill and told us we were beyond the sign, so we would have to move back…and we all did. One of the women in the group was a Park Ranger out of uniform, that’s how the group knew about the wolf pack’s movements. We moved down the road to another parking area where we could view the whole valley.


We spent a couple hours there, but a group of four photographers went up the left side of that valley, way past the sign by about a half mile and the wolves never came out that night. A Grizzly Bear came out just before we left, and a coyote ran right past the parking area for everyone to see and photograph. There was a hatch of caddisflies coming out of the river across the way and the swallows, songbirds (and even the ducks) were having a great time feeding on that cash crop. There was a Savannah Sparrow who had a nest right in front of our car who was feeding its young with those flies.

Grizzly bears

Grizzly bears. Photo by Nathan Lee.

In that same area some folks were stopped and looking way up on the mountainside, and they said they were looking at mountain goats. Luckily, the goats were white and there was a dark background, [so] you could see them walking around, feeding. I had never seen these animals in the wild before. In between bear sightings, there were hundreds of Bison on both sides of the road (and many crossing the road,) bringing traffic to a standstill. In one area, there were over one hundred elk lying down. You couldn’t see them with the naked eye, but with binoculars, I counted them.


That same night, a pack of wolves took down a bison in the Lamar Valley as many visitors watched and photographed the event…some were in the right place at the right time. [We didn’t see any] wolves this trip, so there is always something to come back to see. In many of the ponds and rivers along the highways, there were lots of Canada Geese and many different species of ducks, including both kinds of Scaup, Ruddy Ducks, Mallards, Common Mergansers, Trumpeter Swans, and White Pelicans.


In one spot along Yellowstone Lake, I saw a Clark’s Grebe (which was a life bird for me,) [and] no Loons [were] seen, but some do breed there. We saw several Osprey nests and adults feeding in the rivers and many Bald Eagles perched over the rivers or flying along them. As we left the Park going out the south entrance, we saw another moose and some deer. We traveled down along the east side of Grand Teton National Park, which we viewed from across Jackson Lake. The mountains were still mostly covered with snow, which made for great photos across the bright blue lake water.


Many beautiful wildflowers were seen along the highways and walkways during the trip, but that’s another story. See ya.


Photo at top: Coyote. Photo by Nathan Lee.

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Gary lives with his wife, Karen, at Eight Acre Wood in Inlet where he was the Forest Ranger for 35 years, working in the Moose River Wild Forest Recreation Area and West Canada Lakes Wilderness Area. Now retired, Gary works summers for the Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation, observing, catching and banding loons. The author of a column Daybreak to Twilight in local papers from 1986 to 2019, he now writes his Outdoor Adventures a weekly blog. In 2008, Gary coauthored a book with John M.C. “Mike” Peterson, "Adirondack Birding- 60 Great Places to Find Birds."

One Response

  1. Marge Villanova says:

    Thank you for writing and posting this article! ❤️

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