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Yellowstone Fall 2015 Trip Report, Days 7 & 8 (October 2 & 3)

Day 7, October 2

Uh oh.  Thunderstorms raged during the night and it was sprinkling in the morning.  We wouldn’t let that hold us back.  First we ventured to the interior road to look for elk and fox.  We found both.  Several bulls were out near the main road, some with harems, others wandering on their own.

As we approached the cross fox spot from the previous afternoon we spied a bull elk thrashing a small pine tree.  The poor tree didn’t stand a chance.

Elk thrashing a tree

A few bugles later, he took off, only to run past us an hour or so later chasing a cow elk.

We waited for the cross fox to appear on its morning hunt.  I decided to hop in the car to drive further down the road and canvass the area, which was either a blessing or a curse.  It turned out that the fox popped into the open the moment I left, and there was some question as to whether my passing actually spooked it.  So maybe my sacrifice (not getting any photos) helped my group and the rest of the photographers there.  I suppose I can live with that line of thinking. 😉

They did get some nice shots of the fox posing before it disappeared.  Meanwhile, it was dry, but overcast… the cool, cloudy conditions had led to a noticeable bump in wildlife activity these last couple days, there’s no question.

At Moose-Wilson Road we spotted only one of our five moose from the other day, but little else.  It was already mid-morning.  We returned to Jackson for lunch and a short break.  When we stepped outside for the afternoon drive, it instantly started raining.  This time, the downpour didn’t let up, and actually got worse the rest of the way.  We weren’t discouraged.  If there’s one animal we knew wouldn’t be fazed by the rain, it’s the beaver.

They’ve been sighted consistently at Schwabacher Landing, so we went looking.  Not surprisingly, the parking lot was nearly empty.  We ventured down the bank until we came to the beaver lodges, and then waited for a bit before the first beaver appeared.

It quickly disappeared, but we could hear beaver sounds (snuffling and mild chirping) coming from behind some deadfall.  So we knew they were active.  Soon, they started showing up all over the place, as they swam upstream to feed 1.

Baby beaver

By the end of the very wet photo shoot, we counted at least seven beavers, including young, the most I’ve seen in one outing.  It was a solid way to spend a wet afternoon.

 

Day 8, October 3

This morning was dark and damp.  The mountains were nowhere to be seen.  We started with a cow moose in the darkness before moving on toward Moose-Wilson Road.  Pretty quickly, Zack spotted a very wet great horned owl, perching near some nice foliage.  Finally, an owl on this trip!

Great horned owl

We continued down Moose-Wilson and did see three moose bedded in the tall willows, but little else.  Traveling up the interior road we stopped at the fox spot but missed the brief glimpses folks had of both a red and the cross fox.  At this time I also received a message saying otters were out at Oxbow.  Too far for us, but it’s nice to hear that our three otters from the other day were still out and about.

As we approached the Jackson Lake Dam, we finally found a close black bear to photograph.  Believe it or not, two members of the group had never seen a black bear up close in spite of numerous close grizzly and brown bear sightings, so they were very excited.  The bear jam was well-managed by volunteer rangers, so we all got some shots before the bear bedded down for a nap.

After lunch it was time to say goodbye to the Tetons and return to Yellowstone.  We headed out to the Lake first to check on Raspberry (nowhere to be seen) and did see another black bear resting on an elk carcass far out in Mary Bay.

Up over a foggy, misty Dunraven we went, and when we descended we had even more black bears.  A sow with cub were near Floating Island, causing quite a backup on the road as people abandoned their cars to get a look.  We had no sympathy for the person whose rental vehicle was hit after they parked illegally in the middle of the road…

The day and the tour weren’t quite over!  We still had to photograph some elk near Mammoth and at China Garden, and soon after had bighorn sheep high above the cliffs of Gardiner Canyon.

Bighorn sheep

It was a rapid fire succession of subjects and photo ops.  Really a great way to end the tour.

On Sunday I’ll return the clients to Bozeman for their flights home.  I will then return to the park for a while longer (including a one day tour later in the week), but I’m not sure how much exploration time I’ll have.  I will follow up with more trip reports if time allows and there are any encounters of note.

Big thanks to Zack Clothier for co-leading this latest tour, and huge thanks to our clients Bill, Charlotte, Ed and Rick for a wonderful time!

Notes:

  1. If you are wondering how to identify beavers, check out the Beaver vs. Otter vs. Muskrat Throwdown

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