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All About Wildlife

June 18, 2017

What a fabulous day! Today was all about wildlife. We observed some of the members of the Prospect Peak wolf pack. Through the spotting scopes we saw one adult wolf and three pups. We had the opportunity to meet and talk with wolf biologist Kira Cassidy who shared her research on wolf behavior and how she collects that data. One interesting fact we learned is how all the adults in the pack work together to take care of the pups. Adult wolves eat their prey, return to the den site, and then regurgitate it for the pups to eat!

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Learning from Kira

Right after observing the wolves we met “Bill the bear man.” Bill is a long-time volunteer bear watcher (he started in the 80’s!) and knows LOTS of information about both grizzlies and black bears in the park. He was gracious enough to let us look through his scope and we were all able to see a grizzly bear!

Our next stop with Kira was to visit the site of a series of active beaver dams and a big lodge along Crystal Creek. Here we learned about the intricate connections between species in the park – a larger wolf population increases predation and decreases the number of elk. With lower numbers of elk, willow trees are better able to regenerate and grow without being eaten. The more willows there are in wetter areas, the better the habitat becomes for beavers, who are the master architects behind many small pools and ponds. By damming creeks and reducing the speed (and sediment load) of water moving through the ecosystem, beavers create ideal habitats for many amphibians such as the boreal toad. And guess what?! We saw a boreal toad today near the beaver dam!

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Beaver dam on Crystal Creek

As we headed away from Crystal Creek, a badger trotted across our path! Following it with our binoculars we were able to see it successfully corner a ground squirrel underground between two holes and the hunt was on! After several minutes of determined and coordinated digging and possible distraction at one hole with his tail, the badger successfully extracted and ate the ground squirrel! What an exciting morning! Then the clock struck 10:00am! Whew!

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Hunting badger!

Throughout the day we not only witnessed wildlife, but we also we shared our experiences and connected with people young and old, from near and far, who were simply enjoying all Yellowstone has to offer. We are also glad we packed our long underwear. June in Yellowstone is a bit cooler than in NC.

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Our group, out it the cool, windy weather, looking in every direction for more wildlife!

As we go to sleep tonight, and throughout this week, we will be reflecting on our conversation with Kira. She reminded us that, though it might sound a bit cliche, the Yellowstone ecosystem (and nature in general) is a bit more complicated than we might want, and it is always changing. But there is great hope in that getting to know animals helps us to build a connection to nature, and maybe even understand ourselves better. After all, we are animals too. Through these connections we begin to understand, and with understanding, we may learn to take better take care of and continue to preserve the world around us.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. Barbara Carson permalink
    June 19, 2017 8:10 am

    The pictures are fabulous and the narrative is so interesting. Have a great day!!

  2. Ronald Heinze permalink
    June 19, 2017 8:31 am

    Can’t wait to follow your adventures for the next days.

  3. Leah Buckley permalink
    June 19, 2017 8:39 am

    How neat, a badger! We did not see one of those when I went. Love looking at the pictures and reading the blog. Have a great trip!

  4. Charlotte Heinze permalink
    June 19, 2017 10:19 am

    Fascinating stuff!! It’s hard to believe it’s so cold there when it’s 115 degrees in Las Vegas.

  5. Randy L Emmitt permalink
    June 19, 2017 5:31 pm

    Loved the photo of the badger! Hoping you get into a warmer climate so you can show us some of the butterflies and odonata. Of course I’ll settle for a marmot photo if the weather stays cold.

  6. Kendall Solomon and family permalink
    June 20, 2017 12:07 am

    Love the looking in every direction picture!!! Very interesting facts about wolves feeding pattern.
    Very cool siting the badger in a hunt! So sad for that squirell…Meg, Kendall wishes to know if you will see any bison out there?
    Can’t wait to see what happens tomorrow!!!

  7. Lyla permalink
    June 20, 2017 9:33 pm

    Wow! That sounds like a fun experience with the badger. What predators does the badger have?

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