Day 173–A Wolf Gives Me a Life Lesson

We were in Yellowstone by 4 AM today, on a concentrated search for moose. I’ve never seen a moose before, but various events and larks have rendered me moose obsessed. Did you know moose:
Are the largest species of deer in the world?
Each antler can weigh up to 50 pounds?
When threatened by humans, instead of head-butting, they kick!
They can dive up to twenty feet underwater?
Why would they do that? They love aquatic plants!

So, staying at the north entrance, we needed to leave very early to drive to a prime moose spotting site and hike the two miles out to Ribbon Lake before the sun rose too high for animal spotting.

There was not a moose to be seen, but while looking for one thing, I found everything else I could possibly want!

Our day went something like this:

Almost immediately, we saw a Red Fox! Who doesn’t love Swift from David the Gnome??? This was my first Red Fox sighting.

We spotted a Northern Saw-whet Owl flying across the road. Owls aren’t easy to find! This was a life list bird for me.

In the parking lot near the trail head, we found a Great Grey Owl. Another lifer!

Our hike was undisturbed by any other people. We were absolutely alone with nature, as we heard coyotes calling, and enjoyed this view along the trail:

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Further into the woods, we heard a very silly sounding mammal call, which turned out to be a group of elk ahead of us on the trail.

After the hike, with no moose to be had, but some pretty cool sightings nonetheless, we drove through Hayden Valley on our way to the West Thumb.

That’s when we saw a black wolf, feeding on a carcass with a bunch of ravens. This is the same carcass we watched three grizzlies fight over, National Geographic style, two days ago. I did not think I would be lucky enough to see a wolf at all, let alone such a gorgeous one, and for so very long. The following are iPhone photos through a spotting scope (the wolf was about three quarters of a mike away), so the photos will look strange.

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Meanwhile, a Golden Eagle flew overhead and decided to perch and watch the show:

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After leaving this wonderful show (the wolf left first), less than a minute passed before we spotted a grizzly, taking a swim! I have no iPhone photos of this because the bear was so close my zoom lens actually captured it well.

We traveled through the park and hiked more (almost 11 miles total) and here are the other wonderful things that happened:

We saw an otter!!
One more life bird!
We watched a bison take a dust bath, which is much like watching a one ton puppy roll his back onto something stinky he finds in the yard. Hooves were flying!
The same bison were also practicing sparring with each other, which was awesome to see.
We were sitting about 50 feet away from a huge male elk (didn’t have a choice, had to drive past the lawn in Mammoth he adopted) when he made his funny little call. It was incredible to watch.
I made some very fast friends with about five Grey Jays and a raven. If you know me well, you know corvids are always a joy for me.

Finally, we were not attacked by any bears:

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So I set out only wanting to see a moose, and ended up having the best day of my life, without ever seeing a moose. I realize that seems like an extreme statement, but I keep track of these things, and the previous best day of my life was on the tenth anniversary of Kurt Cobain’s death, with my friend Sharon, on Maui.

Tomorrow, we travel to the Grand Tetons…to find a moose.

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