Yellowstone: The Usual Suspects and a Surprise or Two


This fellow is one of the usual suspects: his name is Scarface, and I’ve seen him before in Yellowstone. He’s over twenty years old, with a mangled right ear, and..yes..a scarred face from too many run-ins with other grizzlies. I’ve only seen him from the road, which is just fine with me: coming around the bend on a trail and meeting this particular face is not on my bucket list. But it’s pretty exciting to watch him lumber across a meadow in the setting sun.

One of the great perks of living in western Montana (and being retired!) is that I can wake up on a Monday morning, check the weather, and decide that the time is right for a short jaunt to Yellowstone to see what critters are around. I did just that last week, and had a glorious three days. No wolves, although I knew they were around, but lots of other great activity.

My first evening I took a picnic supper out to one of my favorite spots to sit and watch: Slough Creek. There were plenty of wolf watchers on the hill behind me, so I knew something was going on, but no one was down on the little hill that I like to stake out. As I settled in, I saw dirt flying out of a ground squirrel hole about a hundred feet from me. As I got closer the digging stopped, and all was quiet. I sat and watched, and after about 5 minutes this guy popped up:


So cool.   He posed in triumph for a few seconds, and then headed off to bring dinner to his family:


And badgers were definitely a recurring theme.  The next morning I stopped by some more wolf watchers, and as they were all peering across the valley I spotted another badger right at our feet.


Those badgers were a couple of nice surprises, for sure.  Another surprise for me was how photogenic the wolf watchers can be:



Later that day I watched a coyote trying to get something from an old bison or elk leg.  He worked and worked at it, but I can’t believe there was much meat left for him.



I watched him until he wandered off, but then saw him about a half a mile away with some large piece of booty in his mouth.  He was so far away that I couldn’t get a decent photo, but here’s what I got:


Any idea what that could be?  Maybe a piece of old bison hide?  I needed someone with a good scope!

The weather was gorgeous, so I decided to just hang out by the Blacktail Ponds for the afternoon.  Good choice.  As the afternoon wore on the critters seemed to come to me: a Sandhill Crane (alone and with a beautiful Yellow-Headed Blackbird), a moose, and a big old black bear.   An American Avocet even posed with a pair of Cinnamon Teals in the background.







Just glorious.

OF course, even without the wildlife, Yellowstone is glorious:







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, Montana, Nature, Outdoors, Travel, Wildlife, Yellowstone and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

36 Responses to Yellowstone: The Usual Suspects and a Surprise or Two

  1. Oh how amazing and all at your finger tips!
    Beautiful pictures. Love the Sandhill Crane.

  2. What great photos! I had no idea that you had Sandhill Cranes in your area. We’ve seen them in the Southeast and Northern USA, but missed them in your area. Thanks for this stunning glimpse of Yellowstone. All the best, Terri

  3. Linda R says:

    Great crane shot! And a honey of a badger, too.

  4. lylekrahn says:

    I sure would have liked to see one those badgers when I was there – you got some nice ones. You gave a nice overview of Yellowstone. When you mention the locations, I know what where you’re talking about.

    • westerner54 says:

      Thanks. You weren’t among the photographers I was taking a picture of were you? I don’t think either group ended up seeing wolves those days. The larger group at Slough Creek had actually spotted a bison that the wolves had killed the night before, but I don’t think they ever caught the wolves coming back to it.

      • lylekrahn says:

        That’s funny that it might have been but I didn’t hang around that spot much. I did, however, hear of a carcass around Slough Creek. After a while I figured out that if the spotting scope crowd was out that generally meant the wildlife was too far out to take a photo or they were just waiting for something to happen.

  5. oopsjohn says:

    Oh, wow, such wonderful photos! I am headed there now and will spend the next three months in the Lamar Valley area with the “wolf watchers.” (I’m not “officially” one of them but I linger on the periphery and try to learn from them.) Nice to know that there are still patches of snow on the ground. Thanks for your always-inspiring posts!

    • westerner54 says:

      Good for you. What a perfect way to spend the summer. And yes, plenty of snow still around – not in the Lamar, but the area around Norris and Canyon had at least a foot still on the ground. Some rain would sure be nice, though….

  6. penpusherpen says:

    I couldn’t find any other words than the ones you uttered above, simply glorious… x

  7. Yellowstone is always amazing. I have not thought of Sandhill Cranes in conjunction with it before. Thanks for a fresh perspective.

  8. LuAnn says:

    This was like coming home to us. We spent two years in Yellowstone so I am familiar with all that you wrote about. Scarface was known and seen by just about everyone who spent much time at Yellowstone. The last time a friend and I tried to photograph a badger in YNP he hissed at us as we apparently got a little too close. In all our time there I never did see a moose, having to go to the Tetons for views of them.

    • westerner54 says:

      Wouldn’t want to make a badger crabby, that’s for sure! They are rough characters. Glad I could give you a reminder of your YNP time! Thanks for checking it out.

  9. Reblogged this on hikingnorthwest and commented:
    Yellowstone is one of the great wild places in North America. Here is a reminder that it’s much more than Old Faithful. Sandhill Cranes and badgers? Who knew? Great blog to check out.

  10. Great pictures and what a treat to experience all these wild animals in their natural habitat!

  11. Great post. I have never seen badgers there. Sandhill cranes yes, but I never was able to get as close as you did! I’ll have to check it out in spring one of these years.

    • westerner54 says:

      That crane actually walked up to me as I was sitting…I was curious to see how close it would get before it noticed me. Once it got about 15 feet from me it seemed to wake up and headed down the hill. I’ve seend badgers in the Lamar Valley before, but never managed to catch them nabbing something to eat. Thanks.

  12. I doubt I’ve seen this many wild animals ever. And for you to see this many in such a short time span. Wow. Do you have to sit and wait a long time for these photo ops? Just wondering. And are the animals so used to humans that they possess no fear?

    • westerner54 says:

      I do spend a fair amount of time sitting and watching – probably longer than most folks have the patience for! That’s how I saw the badgers and the coyotes and the sandhill cranes – oh and the moose, this time. The bears are usually spotted along the side of the road, although I was pretty lucky this time and that big black bear did some wandering down the valley while I was sitting. The animals still have fear, but they’re used to cars going by the road, so they seem to ignore that. You’ll have to take a trip to Yellowstone and check it out yourself!

  13. Wow, looks like a wonderful day! How very cool to spot a badger mid hunt, and such a variety of life down there! You’re inspiring some adventures in my neck of the woods.

  14. Absolutely amazing. Enjoyed reading and looking at your post.

  15. znara says:

    You have the best animal adventures 🙂

  16. Cathi Burgoyne says:

    Love this!! Jennifer just spent a weekend in Yellowstone and saw some of the usual suspects! Thanks for sharing

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