Spring in Yellowstone: Critters and Empty Roads

A handsome black wolf stopping by to check out the campsite is a pretty auspicious start to a weekend in Yellowstone, don’t you think?

We arrived at the Mammoth Campground in Yellowstone at about 6:00 on Friday evening.  We set up camp, and while Bill was getting out the chairs, I walked down to the pay station to make us legal.  I put the envelope in the box, turned around, and was stunned to see a beautiful black wolf strutting down the road toward our campsite…only a hundred feet from me!     Amazing.    We’ve seen wolves many times in Yellowstone, but rarely this close, and never in a campground.

I watched him go around the bend, and then hurried back to the campspot, hoping that Bill had not missed this sight.     He hadn’t….not by a long shot.  He had just set out the chairs and sat down with a whisky and potato chips when the wolf trotted past, stopped, turned, and stared intently at Bill.   He said it seemed like it was for minutes, but was actually only seconds.    The wolf then turned and loped off down the road.

Of course, neither of us had a camera anywhere close.

I do, however, have a video of three wolves from the Canyon Pack that we took in the fall of 2010 in Yellowstone’s Hayden Valley.   I think this beautiful black wolf could be related to this pack, since one of the adults in the pack was black.  Or….who knows?   Here’s the video, which gives you a good sense of how self-assured and regal these animals can be:

What a great start to the weekend.

March is a dandy month to visit Yellowstone, especially if the weather cooperates even a little.  There just are not many people in the park in March.     There were only two other campers in the Mammoth Campground (which is why the wolf was taking that particular shortcut, I’m sure) and the roads are beautifully car-free:

Lamar Valley in March

Lamar Valley in March

Three bison had apparently died by the Blacktail Ponds last week, and we watched a coyote and some ravens finishing up the last of what must have quite a feast for the wolves and bears.   The coyote didn’t seem at all nervous, so I’m sure the wolves were long gone.  We’ve watched coyotes sneak into a wolf-kill, and if the wolves are anywhere nearby, they are constantly on guard.  This one wasn’t worried at all.

And the nearby bison were clearly no longer stressed:

That afternoon we saw more coyotes, bighorn sheep, and an elk who didn’t like me looking at her.

Anyone who’s been to Yellowstone will recognize the buffalo blocking the road problem!

Then, we saw the black wolf again.  We’d chosen a spot on a hillside to sit and scope out the surroundings.  We didn’t see much, and were just relaxing when he ran across a meadow about a 1/2 mile away.  Actually, I can’t be sure it was the same wolf, but it was a lone black wolf, and he sure seemed to be on a mission.    The spot was gorgeous, and deserves a picture:

We finished the day with a crabby Clark’s Nutcracker who wanted better snacks than we had, a walk along the Gardner River, and a soak in the Boiling River.  No return visit from the black wolf, but we won’t forget him.

About westerner54

Hello. I'm Cindy, and I love to hike, bike and explore the outdoors - particularly the western U.S.
This entry was posted in Adventure, Camping, Hiking, Montana, Nature, Outdoors, Photography, Travel, Wildlife, Yellowstone and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

27 Responses to Spring in Yellowstone: Critters and Empty Roads

  1. avian101 says:

    I feel like going back to Yellowstone once more! Beautiful! 🙂

  2. sonjarosas says:

    Wow! Yellowstone is one of those places you always hear about, but I’ve never actually seen pictures like these. This is off-the-charts awesome. What an amazing place!

    Great photojournal!

  3. Mind Margins says:

    Wow, so amazing to see Yellowstone in the spring. It must be nice to visit without all the crowds and traffic on the main roads. We once watched a pack of wolves circling a herd of elk mothers and their calves, and I was surprised to see a black wolf. I guess I never thought about it, but always assumed wolves were brown. It was fascinating to see them try to attack the elk, and to see the mothers defend their babies, and we never saw the wolves succeed. I’m looking forward to visiting this summer.

    • westerner54 says:

      I’ve seen many wolf chases, and have come upon the wolves right after they’ve brought down an elk, but never witnessed the actual kill. I think I want to, but then again…

      I actually enjoy going to Yellowstone in the summer, but my husband gets too frustrated by the traffic. We’ve done a couple of trips where I stay in the Roosevelt Cabins and he and his friends do a backpack, and that’s worked pretty well. It’s fun chatting with the families on vacation, and seeing how excited the kids are.

      Thanks for your great comments!

  4. Becky says:

    We spent a week there last August (Canyon Campground) it was wonderful – lots of people, but still wonderful. These are great photos!

  5. Love this post .. we come through here usually once or twice a year. Never seen the wolves .. beautiful. Thank you for such a close up glimpse of the park and all its beauty.

  6. Pingback: Stopped by a Trail Sign and a Yellowstone Grizzly Encounter « Mind Margins

  7. beechcreekproject says:

    What a great video of the wolves crossing the road. I liked the first one that stopped in the middle of the road and never looked left or right. It was like he knew he owned the place and had no concern for anything else. It’s a beautiful country we live in and you definitely did it justice with all of your great photos. Stay safe.

  8. westerner54 says:

    My thoughts exactly about that first wolf! We actually saw him again the next day. He (at least I think it was him – it was the same pack, anyway) was harassing a sick bison. We watched him for quite a while, but he never took the bison down. The bison would lay down, and the wolf would come at it and make it stand up, then go away and rest in the trees. Apparently that went on until the next day, when the bison finally died and the rest of the pack came back. We took a video:

  9. josh meier says:

    Absolutely AMAZING!!! I can only hope to one day enjoy such an intimate wolf encounter. Definitely a life dream of mine. Thank you so much for sharing these wonderful videos and photos.

  10. westerner54 says:

    Thanks. It was amazing. This was one of those times when “awesome” probably would have been an appropriate description for once!

  11. Fergiemoto says:

    Oh, wow, you saw wolves at Yellowstone! I’ve not seen those yet – plenty of buffalo, elk, some moose, etc, but no wolves.

  12. westerner54 says:

    Haven’t seen a moose there for a number of years, but I know they’re there. Thanks – your comment made me smile this morning!

  13. znara says:

    Wow! What an amazing sight! Most of my animal adventures involve strange bugs joining us for trail breakfast or birds circling waiting for some tuna to drop. Oh and the occasional moose adventure, but nothing as wild as this!

  14. AZalphadogphoto says:

    Amazing photos and video, what a great experience.

  15. Deano says:

    Fantastic! You have some incredible videos there. I have only seen wolves from the distance in Canada and Yellowstone. Hope to see them this close some day!

  16. char says:

    Wow! That wolf video was amazing. I’ve always wanted to see a wolf there, but have only seen coyotes. Last time we drove through on our way home from Wyoming, we saw not 1 single animal (I was shocked…and quite disappointed). You hit the bonanza (of course, you stuck around for more than an hour driving through).

    • westerner54 says:

      Yeah, I guess the trick is to give it time – we’ve driven through the park on our way back from Utah quite often and haven’t seen much either. Thank for the visit!

  17. oopsjohn says:

    Incredible video. Amazing that the wolves are, like you say, so self-assured. Thanks for sharing…

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