"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

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Battle

And the winter drags on.  Us at the YGS have come to the conclusion that it will snow forever.  Every day the clouds drops white flakes down upon us and the wind blows.  We haven't seen much sunshine in weeks.  Andrea and I went to Bozeman yesterday afternoon and were pleasantly surprised when our question was answered:  the sun does shine elsewhere, just not in Yellowstone recently.  So you can imagine my sweet surprise this morning when I saw the sun and blue sky.  The air was calm, but cold.  So I follow my instincts and decided to participate in this sunny day and take a drive to Lamar.
The snow and wind continuously smooths out the snow on the ground.  Occasionally it is interrupted by  tracks of wildlife that had wandered by.  The prints crisscross the snow with areas of snow cleared to the ground, it was obvious that bison had been in numerous areas plowing their massive heads through the snow but I actually only saw bison on the Blacktail Plateau and a couple small herds by the hitching posts in Lamar and further on by Soda Butte.

My first wildlife sighting of the day, besides bison, were these four rams soaking in the suns rays.
With the hard winter we are preparing for a large die-off this spring.  The story of this hard winter is written all over the wildlife.  I've seen bison and elk that may not survive until the vegetation is exposed this spring.  Nature can be cruel at times but I would not be human if I didn't admit that I hate to see the suffering of anything.  The cold temps (-18 at Pebble Creek when I was there at 9:30 this morning) and the deep snows are causing the animals to battle for their very lives.

This bison by Lamar Valley shows how difficult this winter has been on him.

A lone tree on a hillside on a pristine snow covered hill in Lamar Valley.
The piles of snow are extremely deep next to areas of the road.  These 3 bison were crossing the road and decided to leap up the snow.

Snow whips into a frenzy as the last bison leaps into the snow.  The other two sink up to their chests in the deep snow as they struggle to move forward.

On the Blacktail Plateau the drifts are so high next to the road that it is like driving through a snow corridor.  The drifts are higher than my car in areas.  This little coyote crossed in front of my car right before the Gardner River bridge on my way back to Mammoth.  It would occasionally drop to its chest in the snow.  

The day started off sunny and still but eventually it turned to the recent norm:  snowy and windy.  The mornings have been below zero these past few days but it has now warmed up to a balmy 15+ degrees.   And I still have another 3 months of this to look forward to.  All in all, I still like the snow.