"There is nothing so American as our national parks. The scenery and wildlife are native. The fundamental idea behind the parks is native. It is, in brief, that the country belongs to the people, that it is in process of making for the enrichment of the lives of all of us. The parks stand as the outward symbol of this great human principle." Franklin D. Roosevelt

Sunday, December 20, 2009

My First Winter Bison Jam

With my usual Sunday morning drive to Lamar I discovered that my camera was not in its usual place. After a bit of panic I remembered I brought it into the store this week and had accidentally left it there. So first stop this morning was the store to get the camera. After a brief chit chat with Judy and Betty I left for Lamar. After driving a bit down the road it dawned on me I forgot to get the camera after visiting so I turned around and drove back to pick it up. That was the boring part of my morning. After double checking all my possessions I finally started on my way. About one mile down the road I came across three wolves laying on top of a hill. There was already a couple other cars there with their cameras and scopes out (that is always a clue). The black wolf stood up and the other two stayed curled in balls to the left and down slope.
By the Yellowstone River picnic area I came across my first bison jam in months. It was a pleasant surprise and I enjoyed watching the bison stand in the middle of the road as I waited for them to move. I was entertained for awhile by one young bison who carried a small branch around in his mouth and would occasionally toss his head from side to side. He appeared to be really amusing himself with that branch.
In Lamar the snow started to fall, not very heavy but just enough to make the mountains obscure. Not a good day to photograph them. I will wait until a sunnier Sunday/Monday for that. As I drove toward the hitching posts on the east side of Lamar I saw a coyote on the side of the road. It had something very familiar to me: a collar. Could this possibly be Digit? I compared today's pictures with the ones I took last week and I've come to the conclusion that there are so many similar markings that it could very well be Digit. I talked to a Park Service employee this week and they were not aware of any active coyote research being done in the Park right now and that this coyote must be old.
I drove into Cooke City and snapped a picture of the snowmobiles on the road and the sleds lined up at the gas station.
On my way back to Mammoth I came across the same herd of bison but this time they were running across the bridge over the Yellowstone River. Once on the other side the slowed down to their usual walk as the car ahead of me and myself drove patiently behind. And we followed them for quite awhile.
I was surprised to see a very small and very orange calf in the group. It could be a hard winter on this little fella. I also saw a female with a prolapse (a talked to a couple heading in the other direction who thought she was calving. I explained what a prolapse was.). She was thin and bony. She is another bison that has a long hard winter ahead of her.