This post is about one of those magic moments where you get to witness and capture something completely unexpected but amazing. We were making an early morning drive through Lamar Valley in the Northern end of the park when we spotted a lone wolf a good distance away down in the valley. We pulled over just as he was making his way toward a herd of Bison. He made a few tentative attempts to separate a “red dog” bison calf away from its mother but the mom kept itself between the wolf and calf and the predator kinda lost interest. Shortly after that, a group of 5 or 6 bison chased the wolf away from the main herd. Somewhere during all this action, a coyote joined the party and began nipping at the wolf’s heels. We were still a long ways away but we could hear the coyote’s barking clearly. The wolf slowly turned toward us and started walking quickly towards where we were parked. The Coyote kept pace and never left his trail position behind the wolf – yelling the entire time. Eventually we got a better view of the whole proceeding and were able to get a photo of the encounter. I managed to get this shot of the Wolf coming at us, the coyote with mouth open as it chased the wolf, and the buffalo behind with their young. Sort of a perfect description of what Yellowstone is all about.
We continued to watch as that coyote chased the wolf for about 2 miles!! Even when the wolf turned and showed the size of his teeth the coyote kept coming…
I wouldn’t say that these are my “best” but they are all photos that I love and that capture the local inhabitants of places we went this year. Happy New Years to all!
Nice Challenge. I originally started to think about the gift of time and all that it affords us. In searching for a photo to reflect that concept, I ran across this one that I hadn’t posted yet – not really about time but about some of the most important things that I am thankful for. The ability to see and spend time with our friends in a variety of spaces and places. A chance to enjoy them in different contexts than we are used to in our daily lives. And, of course, the ability to meet and get to know new, non-traditional, friends like these pals from the animal kingdom that are also enjoying each other’s company. Lastly – thanks to all of you have taken the time to visit this site and to offer your comments and thoughts on my postings.
We had been hoping that we would have some good opportunities to see wolves while in Hallo Bay. As it turns out, we saw lots of “evidence” of wolves but not many wolves in the flesh. In fact, I think we only really saw one wolf – but we saw him twice in the same place. Our guide had told us he had seen wolves along a string of tidal driftwood in the meadows. While near there, I caught a glimpse of what I think was a large grey wolf but he disappeared very quickly and did not reappear. While keeping a lookout for that wolf, we found this youngster sitting atop a rocky outcropping just surveying the meadow. We took a long and circuitous route to approach him without disturbing him and we were able to get some decent, long distance photos. This is my favorite, with him just relaxing and watching us from his perch. It was a great thing to see and capture in the wild. I hope you enjoy!
Just so you can understand the distances, this photo was taken at 60-70 yards away and is cropped to highlight the wolf. When we first saw this wolf he looked like this (through a 500mm telephoto lens) at a LONG ways away…
I thought I’d end our look at the Wolves with a close-up in case anyone wanted to feel like a deer being hunted 🙂 It was a real pleasure to be able to observe the wolves at close range. I think you’ll agree that these are magnificent animals.
I hadn’t included any photos from the other “mountain” pack of wolves at the center – here’s one of McKinley the Alpha Male of that pack. He is the biggest of all of the wolves at the center (at 120 lbs.)
Joseph is the last ranking wolf in the pack even though he is another gorgeous animal as can be seen in this photo.
As I said yesterday, I was at the Center during feeding time – it turns out that is not the same as an actual feeding. Let me try and explain the feeding time process. At the appointed hour, a door to a small room is opened for the wolves to enter. The key is that ALL of the wolves must enter for the door to be closed and the food to be placed out in the wolves normal environment. The food is normally elk meat and it is put in areas of the enclosure for the wolves to “hunt” and find. Sometimes the small creek that runs through their environment is stocked with fish for the wolves to catch. On the evening that I was there, Akela (the Alpha with the attitude) would not allow poor Joseph to enter the room. She was making the decision for the pack that they were not going to eat that night. After Joseph made numerous attempts to get into the room, it was obvious that “the attitude” was not going to let that happen and the room was closed to the wolves. It was really interesting then to watch as Joseph, tail between his legs, did everything he could think of to make up with the boss. There was the licking that I highlighted in the Challenge photo last week, attempts at playing, and then this gentle pawing of Akela as if to say “ah come-on….”.
Nothing seemed to work but the pack quickly went back to their normal interactions content to wait for tomorrow for another chance to eat.
This is Akela – the alpha female of the river wolf pack at the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center in West Yellowstone. The discovery center is a nice place to visit while you up in that area and a good place to learn about bears and wolves. I made it part of my itinerary as I love wolves but hadn’t had an opportunity to get any good wolf shots as the San Diego zoo rarely has a wolf on display. You can get a ticket to the center for $10 (which goes to the non-profit which runs the center) and it is good for two days. I went when I first arrived in West Yellowstone (just to check the place out) but the wolves were mostly sleeping at that time. I went back later that evening for the 7:00PM scheduled feeding of the River Pack and was able to get some good photos of the pack interactions.
As the caption says, Akela is the Alpha purely because of her attitude. She is the only female and the smallest of the wolves in the pack but the guides told us there is no question about who is “the boss”. I should also say that all of the wolves in this center were born in captivity – at a facility who raises and provides wolves to the movies and TV. The four wolves in this pack were all bought to the center as youngsters. They also told us that it was very easy to distinguish between wolves born in captivity vs being captured later on – the wolves born in the wild never get used to the fences and they pace the fence lines constantly looking for a way out. The wolves born in captivity always seem much better adjusted and happy. While the habitat that these wolves inhabit is not overly large, they did seem to be happy as they played and interacted together.
One of my hopes in going to Yellowstone was to be one of the lucky few to see a wolf in the wild. I had seen wolves before (in Alaska) but had yet to take a good photo of one. My fallback was going to be a visit to the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center in West Yellowstone. As it turns out, on my last day in the park I got up early (about 5 am) and went out into the Lamar Valley. I was intending to find a yellow SUV that locals had told me was a guy who tracks wolves (by their radio collars) for the park every day. I got out there took a few pictures of other things and had stopped by some folks with huge spotting scopes to see what they were looking at. At that moment a car pulled up and let us know that there was a wolf sighting just off the road a couple of hundred yards away. Needless to say, I bolted to where the crowd was starting to gather and got to see a wolf cross a grassy field. I got a few shots but mostly wolf rear ends and wolf parts obscured by grass. Just when I thought that wolf was gone, a second wolf started to run across the same area. Again, not a lot of great photos but I did manage to get this shot of the wolf highlighted against the morning sun in the grass.
We actually saw three wolves in that pack that morning but many of the views were in deep shadows, obscured by the terrain and foliage, or very far away. In spite of all that, it was exciting to see them. When the “wolf tracker” showed up in the crowd, he told us this was a pack that lived in a den just down the road from where we were and that the ones we saw were two adults (with radio collars) and a yearling that hadn’t been collared yet.
I hope you liked this wild shot (I believe this was the yearling). The other wolf photos I’ll post this week are from the discovery center but I hope you’ll be interested in some of the things that I learned there. Have a great Monday!
I was going to post this photo next week but with this challenge subject, I thought it fit pretty well. These are two white wolves from the Yellowstone Grizzley and Wolf Discovery Center. The “lick-ee” is the Alpha Wolf of the pack who is actually the smallest of the females in the group. The “lick-er” is the Omega wolf – the lowest rank in the pack. The Omega is literally kissing up to “the boss” and trying to kick start their friendship. I’ll have more about wolves next week but I hope you enjoy this portrait of friendly Wolf behavior. Have a great weekend!