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June 17, 2013 – Animal Families

June 18, 2013

Every day seems to have its own theme and today’s seems to be mothers and babies. We saw our coyote and her babies playing again outside their den on the mountain slope. The spirit of their play energized us. On a hike above Cooke City we discovered a great gray owl sitting with her chick high up in an aspen tree. She radiated serenity and patience as she waited for her mate to bring food for the chick. We were told that she leaves the nest for only about twenty minutes a day to wash and feed herself. One trekker compared her to a reformation era Madonna with child. She reminded us of the ultimate mother. Later that day while hiking in the Beartooth Mountains, we encountered a group of mountain goats with several kids. The young goats jumped and hopped along, seemingly at ease high up on the mountain. A fellow hiker told us that golden eagles will intentionally swoop down and knock the kids off the cliffs, then fly down and pick up the carcass and return to their nest to feed their chicks. Again, nature tells us that one mother’s loss is another mother’s gain. A highlight of our evening was sharing our scopes with a young family on vacation. The human children thrilled us with their eagerness and enthusiasm about Yellowstone and its incredible wildlife. The human parents patiently kept them close and off the highway.

Of course, we encountered some single animals during the day; at Slough Creek we watched in amazement as a bull bison head-butted another bull off a bluff and into the creek. The bigger bull stood his ground for a long time watching as the loser plodded off dejectedly. We also watched a male pine marten run in and out of his hollowed out tree stump. We observed marmots and pikas scamper in and out of the rock ledges in the Beartooth Mountains. However, nothing compared to the thrill of seeing a female gray wolf run across the road in front of our vans. She stopped not far away from us, discovered an old piece of meat, and had a snack. Then she loped back across the road towards the river. What an incredible day with the wildlife of Lamar Valley and the Beartooth Mountains, both families and loners.

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