zScapes Ramble On
Yellowstone Autumn :: Back Again

After an exciting and successful winter trip to Yellowstone with Wolf Trackers, I had tentatively decided to mark down 2024 as my next venture. That all changed with an announcement from Nathan that Doug Smith, the Senior Wolf Biologist and Project Leader for the Yellowstone wolf reintroduction program, would be joining several trips in the near future to include a day in the field with Doug and two nights of presentations. Could not resist. What better opportunity to learn about the history and challenges of wolf management then to hear it from the architect & program manager who helped bring them back, with a ton of assistance from a lot of people. It was an honor to be with and hear him talk candidly on all the aspects of wolf management and how we move forward.

A tough subject that needs all the stakeholders at the table and I recommend checking out Bear Creek Council as they 'Work closely with park rangers and local citizens to conserve and protect the integrity of our environment and community.' It is late in the game for our natural world unless we take the time to make a difference, and everyone has that power within.

I am including some links to Doug Smith that I hope find interesting and encourage all to dig deeper and educate yourself.
NPS Profile
Q & A: Wolves, Doug Smith - National Park Service
How to Save Yellowstone's Wolves
Wolf Watching :: What it is all about
We followed two packs this trip, Junction-Butte and Rescue Creek, and were fortunate to observe multiple wolf interactions that provided a glimpse into the lives of these predators.
  • Tuesday: Observed Junction-Butte pack @ Hells Roaring take down a bison yearling, who fought off the pack for 3 mins and was eventually rescued by the heard returning too chase away the pack. Estimate is only 20% of wolf hunts are successful
  • Wednesday: Observed the Rescue Creek pack @ Blacktail Deer Plateau cross Grand Loop road and reunite on ridge above Blacktail Deer Creek. A lot of tail wagging!
  • Thursday: Observed two members of the Junction-Butte pack @ Little America moving along the tree line to presumably reunite. Best guess two yearlings (male/female) or a male yearling and pup.

On to wolf photography. As I mentioned in the prior trip report, the wolf packs have moved away from the park roads in the past few years, most likely in response to the opening of wolf hunting season outside the park and cautiousness around humans. They are intelligent beings and this is how they survive. The scenes detailed above were observed from the road more than one-two miles away, so unless you posses a a far reaching telephoto lens ($7k-$15k), they are just black dots on the scenery. And without the backdrop of snow to create contrast, they are black dots on a brown landscape. However, Yellowstone Wolf Watchers comes to the rescue as they have an arsenal of high power scopes (Swarovski & Nikon) that they deploy at a moments notice with an uncanny knack to zero in on the action so you can follow the unfolding scene. Michelle and Jamie have eagle eyes, in-depth knowledge of the park and its wildlife and built in radar to find them on any given day that is a cut above the rest. And the icing on the cake, they record and load those scenes into the cloud so you can catch what you missed.

This is all a long winded way to say that my pictures do not do justice to the magnificence, beauty and power of these creatures in action, so I include both my images and Wolf Watcher videos for your enjoyment!
Wolf Watching Videos courtesy of Yellowstone Wolf Watcher
Many thanks to Nathan, Linda, Michelle & Jamie. You guys rock!
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Junction-Butte pack hunt :: Please be Aware this video contains scenes of nature that may be disturbing to some

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Junction-Butte cat and mouse with Bison herd

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Rescue Creek pack reuniting

Yellowstone Wildlife :: All around you
Besides all the focus on wolves, Yellowstone has an abundance of wildlife that makes this a great place to see them in action and take photos.
The Park :: Wonders abound
Wolves, check. Elks, check. Big Horn Sheep, check. Pronghorn, check. Bison, check. Tracks & scat, check. Birds, check. But there is so much more.
  • Mammoth Hot Springs, Blacktail Deer Plateau, Little America, Lamar Valley, Soda Canyon
  • Yellowstone skies @ landscapes
  • Great fellow travelers
  • Food everywhere provided by Wolf Tracker and dinners thanks to Zac's Montana Kitchen (Salmon, Beef Tenderloin, Baby-back Ribs & Elk Sausage (yummy), Roast Turkey Breast
Red Fox tops off three dog trip
A folklore of wolf watching is a three dog day, which is achieved when you observe a wolf, coyote and fox in the same day, or whatever timeline you wish. In our case it was spread out over three days, so success. And for me, the time we spent watching a gorgeous Red Fox listening for rumbling under the snow was a high point. Ever since my first winter trip in 2011 watching a fox cross the Lamar river and head up to its den above the Buffalo Ranch, I have been fascinated by this elusive creature. I was lucky to get a incredible image when he stopped for a short pause to pose (at least that's what I thought). When we came across a red fox in Silver Gate, it was deja vu! I leave with a short sequence to tickle your curiosity that hopefully get's you out to experience nature, as never said better: "In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks." –John Muir
Stay tuned for 2024!!!
May our paths & errands meet

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