Winter 2011-12 Wrap Up
February 28, 2012 • Leave a Comment
As February draws to a close, so does my photography in Yellowstone for this winter season. On Friday, I head back to Europe and hopefully will experience some spring weather soon, once winter releases it's grip there too! This winter was an interesting one in several regards. Wolf activity was high this year with several packs visible along the northern range. The Mollies moved up into Lamar Valley and Little America for a while. The three members of the Agate Pack were also seen in Little America. The Blacktail Pack were active from Blacktail Creek to Little America while the Lamar Canyon Pack were spotted regularly from Lamar Valley to... you guessed it, Little America. Little America was a hot spot for wolf viewing this winter. Meanwhile, the Canyon Pack made a few appearances around Mammoth Hot Springs. Unfortunately, I missed the two best wolf photo opportunities of February. The first one I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time, waiting on another pack to come out and play. The second time, there wasn't an available place to park within half a mile of the nearest pullout where the wolves were. This isn't an exaggeration either! With that said, my best wolf photo came in January and I've already posted it a few times, but here it is again.
Surprisingly, there wasn't a lot of other wildlife active on the northern range of Yellowstone. Of course, there were the usual elk and bison. Mule deer, pronghorn antelope, and bighorn sheep could be found between Gardiner and Corwin Springs, outside Yellowstone Park. Bighorn sheep could be seen at the Confluence in Lamar Valley too. Several large bull elk usually winter between Blacktail and Lava Creeks, but this winter, I also saw two, including the aging number 10. He has a yellow ear tag with "10" printed on it from his hey day when he was infamous for attacking cars during the elk rut, or breeding season. I only know of one fox sighting this winter on the northern range. Last winter, in comparison, was often referred to as "the winter of the fox", due to the frequency of fox sightings. Even coyote sightings, which are typically common, were down this winter, at least for me. In the past, I have seen as many as 18 different coyotes in one day, but this winter, the most I saw in one day was four. This may be in part to coyotes becoming habituated to people in the winter and even fed. A few winters ago, the Park Service posted signs stating not to approach or feed them and they also removed several coyotes that had become too bold around people. "Removed", by the way, is a polite way of saying shot and "bold" is a polite way of saying aggressive. This is a prime example of why it's important not to approach wildlife too closely. With less coyotes around this winter, I noticed the signs were gone too. I missed an otter at the Confluence in Lamar Valley by minutes earlier this month and I even heard of a badger that was photographed, which is unusual. I've photographed badgers in the summer, but haven't heard of one seen in the winter before.
While I missed some photo opportunities and some wildlife just weren't seen this winter, I did have a big "score" in February. At the beginning of February, I photographed my first bobcat. Bobcat are seen along the Madison River frequently in the winter and a friend of mine even saw two at the same time on the banks of the Madison a few winters ago. Less frequently, they are seen in the northern range too. Bobcats are more active in daylight hours in the winter than they are in the summer and the snow covered landscape makes spotting all wildlife easier in the winter. My bobcat came outside the park however, in Montana's Paradise Valley and was only possible thanks to a great tip!
So with February now at a close, so ends my winter photograph experience in Yellowstone for the winter season 2011-12. While it may have lacked in some regards for me personally, but to have the opportunity to photograph a bocat made up for it. To give it some perspective, I've been trying to photograph a bobcat for about seven years now. I'm often told how lucky I am and I myself often state that I was just lucky when getting a certain shot. But some times, while luck most certainly plays a big role in being in the right place at the right time, persistence is important too. Thanks for reading!
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