Yellowstone in spring

Erin and I returned from a trip to Yellowstone at the beginning of the month. It’s taken me a while to getting around to writing about it.

As one friend said to me, ‘bison are a given’ and it’s true it’d be a rare and short trip into Yellowstone that didn’t include at least one sighting of the shaggy beasts. That said, I’m always grateful they’re still around. Bison were as many of you know, pushed nearly to extinction and only survive today due to captive breeding and intensive conservation efforts. Even with all that, they still live in a pitifully small portion of their former range and are shot due to unreasonable fears of them transmitting brucellosis to cattle. Cattle transmitted the disease first to bison and there’s no known case of bison transmitting it to cattle. Anyway, we saw lots of beautiful bison on our trip.
The main reason we went to Yellowstone is that it’s the best place, at least in the lower 48 states to see wolves. By best I mean, you’re most likely to see them. We saw many wolves during our trip, including wolves and a grizzly bear eating from the same carcass.
Pronghorns are often seen although not nearly as often as bison. I love seeing these “antelope” (not technically). There’s no animal that reminds me so much of my childhood in Wyoming and the state in general as pronghorns. These are strange creatures, North America’s fastest runners but unable to jump fences. I once saw them crawling under a barbed wire fence near the road in Southern Arizona. Obviously the huge amounts of fences in the American west have had an impact on these animals. As has historic hunting and habitat destruction.
Easily mistaken for a wolf, this happy coyote had just killed a Canada goose and was tearing through her feathers across the river from the road. Tourists were in fact inclined to think this was a wolf, until Erin, who’s worked with wolves and coyotes corrected them, and stopped me from coming to my own false conclusions.
Of course no trip to Yellowstone is quite complete without a sighting of the famed grizzly bear. Back in the day tourists would gather to watch the bears eat trash at dump sites. Not only bad for the bear’s gut, it was a dangerous practice leading to conflict between bears and humans. Now bears aren’t fed and the fun comes in getting a glimpse of them foraging in the wild.
Not a great photo but I can’t help but share. I’ve seen Sandhill cranes in so many places now – Nebraska, Arizona, Colorado, Georgia and Yellowstone. It’s still always a thrill to see these iconic migrants or to hear the strange trill of their voices overhead.

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