Yellowstone: A Study in Nature and Wildlife Photogaphy
12 May 2013
We arrived at Yellowstone's North entrance near Gardiner, MT around 7:30 AM. Almost immediately, we saw four mountain goats. I pulled off at a pullout and got out to get some good photographs. After shooting several frames, I was reviewing them to make sure I got a few good ones at least and when I looked up again, one of the goats was heading right at me. It didn't seem agitated or scared, just curious. I clicked the shutter a few more times.
We proceeded around to Rt 212. My goal was to get to Lamar Valley while the morning feeding activity was still underway. Just as we approached Black Tail Deer Plateau, we saw a lot of cars in a pullout and people with cameras aimed intensely at one area. I was fortunate to find one more spot to park in. Then I saw what the commotion and excitement was about. A black bear was feeding. I shot 15 frames of that beautiful creature. It seemed to not be amused or alarmed by our presence. No one spoke a single word, instead we were all following the bear with our cameras. It crossed the road and into the field on the north side of 212. It was a very surreal experience because that was one of my primary goals. Black Bears are usually docile and not too concerned about humans being close unless they perceive a threat to their cubs or if food supplies are low and they get really hungry. You should store all food properly and dispose of trash and food in bear proof containers all over the park.
We then proceeded to Specimen Ridge. After shooting some landscape scenics and seeing no wildlife other than bison, We then moved on to our target of Lamar Valley. Seeing Pronghorn, bison and some elk, we saw no wolves. Wolves would have been the other half of the wildlife goal. We arrived at Lamar Valley around 8:45. Feeding activity was almost over for most animals.
Two Pronghorn were frolicking among a large herd of bison. They ran north and crossed the road to another group of about five more pronghorn.
After sitting at Lamar Valley for two hours, we then left the park for lunch in Silver Gate City or Cooke City. Unfortunately, nothing was open in either town. Luckily, we packed in beef jerky, granola bars, kit-kats and some Cheetos and bottled water.
We re-entered the park and stop at another pullout and snacked and photographed a ground squirrel bathing in the sun on a rotted tree log. Afterwards, we backtracked through Yellowstone. We came across a herd of bison on the road. One was limping with an injured left front leg. It looked pitiful and was actually scared of the cars that it used to intimidate. There were no obvious injuries so it's unknown how it was injured.
They were headed in the direction of Druids Peak and Lamar Valley, the home area of the largest wolf packs in the park. The bison will likely end up as dinner, if it survives the other smaller packs before Lamar Valley, the Druids Peak pack will almost certainly make that bison their kill.
The most exciting part of this trip would have to be the black bear and a close second to the mountain goats. Getting that close to wildlife is an experience to behold. Use caution but definitely enjoy it.