Seven Days in Yellowstone, 2012

yellowstone NPDull gray skies, light drizzle – anywhere else this kind of weather would be ‘gloomy.’   But Yellowstone is not just anywhere.  The skies can change instantly and seem to transcend adjectives.  Just wait a few minutes and something new will happen.

But I’m not much into waiting.  Hence, landscape photography is not my thing because I don’t have the patience to unravel a tripod and fret over exposure settings.

Fangs and claws and talons are what I’m after.  Here is a quick sample of what I’ve been lucky enough to stumble across so far.

American Badgers





Great Horned Owls

great horned owlgreat horned owl

Bighorn Sheep

bighorn sheepbighorn sheepbighorn sheep

Pronghorn Antelope


Gray Wolves

A beautiful female from the Lamar Pack was trotting along a ridge on her way back to the den.  Because the pack has pups there is no stopping or hiking in this area, but I was able to drive slow and snap off some shots through the window of my car.


There are many dedicated aficionados in Yellowstone’s Lamar Valley who sit on rocky slopes all day watching for wolves with their expensive, high-powered scopes. They know all the individual wolves by name and can recite their genealogy and history.

They are the “in-crowd,” so to speak – and get the jump on the rest of us by having phone communication with each other as well as a scanner that can eavesdrop on Park Ranger conversations.

‘Ranger Rick’, seen below, has a GPS tracking device to keep tabs on the small percentage of wolves in each pack who are fitted with collars that send out location signals.  Wolf lovers have learned to stay close to Rick 🙂

ranger w. wolf gps antenna

I was hanging out with some of them my second day in the Park and got to witness an extraordinary event between two wolves from rival packs.

Normally, members of the Lamar Valley Pack and the neighboring Molly Pack will kill each other on sight.

A young light-colored female from Lamar, I’ll call her Juliet, was trotting along the eastern side of the Lamar River.  You can see that she is wearing a collar.

Lamar wolf

On the opposite side of the river just happened to be a strapping black male, I’ll call him Romeo, from the Molly Pack. Can you spot him way off in the distance?

molly pack black wolf

molly pack black wolf

They sniffed, stared, howled at each other – and then Romeo plunged into the icy river. Everyone gasped and expected the worst.

They were way too far away to take decent pictures, but it was a thrilling relief to watch them seemingly make friends, flirt and play. (It’s not mating season for wolves this late in the year.)

Romeo, a bit skittish, as if he knew this was a forbidden encounter, departed first, leaping back into the swift-moving river.

Juliet on her way back ventured a bit closer and I was able to get a half decent shot of her with my 400mm lens.


By now after all the excitement there was such a long line of spectators that she had to cross the road much closer to humans than a wolf ever likes to be.


Then, like the wild and curious so often seem to do, she stopped and gave us a parting look.


Black Bears

Blondie apparently had the hots for Blackie.  She gave him a whiff and that was all it took; he obediently followed her up the hill and into the trees.

cinamon colored black bearblack bearbearsbears

The next day early in the morning I chanced upon a black bear just starting to rip into a mule deer carcass.

bear with deer carcassWhat amazed me was that she didn’t touch the flanks or the ‘meat’ of this deer. She went right for the juicy stinky fatty stuff.

bear with deer carcassbear with deer carcassAfter only about 20 minutes she pranced away, the deer’s stomach pouch still intact so it wouldn’t spill the nutrient-rich innards.

bear with deer gutsbear trotting away

🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

And just think – I’ve only been here one week and I still have at least two more months (until it gets too cold for this Southerner) to go!  What new wonders are still waiting for me just around the corner?

9 Replies to “Seven Days in Yellowstone, 2012”

  1. What great shots, and a great narrative. And yes, I’ve learned to stop my car whenever I see Rick’s yellow XTerra. Humans are so easily trained.


    1. At least I think his name is Rick. I was just hanging on the edge and eavesdropping. The Lamar wolf was actually identified to me several times by number, but I was so busy following the action I forgot to remember it.

      You sound like you are one of the ‘wolf people’ at the Park? I meant to say in my post how wonderful they all are about sharing their scopes and educating the rest of us.

      Thanks for your comments.


      1. No, I’m not one of the ‘wolf people’, but just go into the park often enough to recognize the ones who really know what they’re doing. Rick McIntyre is the guy in your picture, and he’s incredibly helpful and knowledgable.


  2. Oops you lucky dawg … nice work bringing us a wilderness we only read about, watch Nat’l Geo reviews about and some stills from someone we don’t know. It’s cool that I know you and, therefore, “feel” like I’m with you. Thanks for the experience … waiting with anticipation for more Oops shots.


    1. Yes, I got very lucky and am certainly grateful. Particularly the bear-on-deer carcass shots. The sweet young college-age Ranger Girl let me park questionably close and climb up through my sunroof. She even volunteered that I could drive right up to the bear (who was only 20 yards off the road) and stop briefly, as long as I was not blocking any traffic. I thanked her profusely later, several times.

      Thanks, Richard!


  3. Absolutely stunning, what a treat, what a steady flow of treats from your adventuring and your camera. Badgers! Great horned owls! All the rest and stories played out in front of your/our eyes. I haven’t been in Yellowstone in decades, and it is such an impressive otherworld. You are having indescribable experiences on a daily basis that so much of the world squeezes, if they’re lucky, into a few days a year. The stuff to fire up a brain and heart, and on hand, right there, out the sunroof and next to your house. I’m not sorry for the years I spent in cities but I stayed too long. There is nothing to match living wild. Hooray for you, too too fabulous, John.


    1. Yes, I am living wild and free and adventuresome right now. But not for a moment do I take any of my opportunities for granted, or fail to appreciate – after years of living day-to-day, like most everyone else – the richness of the experience I am now privileged to enjoy.

      The only downside, if there is one, is that when you get to this carefree stage in life you would have to be a fool not to realize, just doing simple math, that you are indeed skidding down the back slope of the mountain of Life. 🙂

      Thanks, as always, for your comments, Barbara. I imagine you have a wonderfully wild and unruly and mystical environment out there on the Pacific Coast to nourish your creative spirit, too!


      1. John, it’s not a back slope for skidding, you’re heading for the summit, or there. And there… plateaus that go on forever until they rise to more heights.
        It’s a steady job rejecting the conventional illusions, planted so young in us and reinforced continually. But only if paid attention to and not ignored which is all the standards deserve. The friends I’ve lost to early deaths who clung to doing what was expected of them, horrific.

        Don Quixote had it right, dear adventuring heart, but forced to cloak himself with insanity to be an explorer, a free spirit, instead of a dangerous challenge to the conventions of his times.

        Observe the limits of those you meet or knew who ground to a halt in fear. Carry on. Your time in Yosemite, and elsewhere, is an expedition to Mars and you’re doing it well. Wild, unruly, and mystical is good. I do the best I can in it, glad to be here. Sometimes even proud.


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