Wildlife Viewing on Steroids
- If you're from Flagstaff, then you know it snows during the winter and one should always be prepared. ↩
- I've been told it's too hoity toity to call them opera glasses. Oh well. I guess I'm a snob. Ha! ↩
- No, I'm not interested in purchasing a gadget that turns my phone into a zoom lens, but thanks for the tip! ↩
We've been camping the last three nights at the Mammoth Hot Springs Campground, the only campground open all-year-round in Yellowstone. Funny it’s called Mammoth; I guess you could say we were in Mammoth this winter after all. 🤣
This morning we woke up to heavy falling snow and three to four inches on the ground from the nighttime storm.
A short while later, there was a knock on the side of Beastie.
“Do you happen to have a shovel?” asked the millennial couple from Arizona. Luckily, we are fully equipped and 1der dug them out. They were completely unprepared. No chains, no shovel, no nothing in their two-wheel drive without snow tires. Really. Really. Dumb. And she was from Flagstaff, so we have no idea what she was thinking (or clearly not...).
We decided to drive to Tower, about 20 miles from the campground, with the hopes of checking out some snowshoe trails. As anticipated, it was a beautiful drive, with intermittent snow and partly cloudy skies.
We saw a bunch of bison (AGAIN!!!). They walked within a couple feet of Beastie while we simply pulled over as much as possible to let them pass.
By the time we got to Tower and had lunch, it was too late to hit any trails. But no worries at all, for the highlight of the day, and an incredible, possibly once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, was seeing a coyote and a grizzly bear eating the carcass of a bison (at separate times, of course).
Backstory: yesterday at dusk, I spoke with a man (10 feet apart 😊) who told me that over the past three days, a grizzly bear's been eating a bison that drowned in a pond, and everything can be viewed from a road turnout. The bear's been coming out in the early morning and consistently at around 5pm.
To get a great parking spot, we arrived around 3:45 and saw a bunch of ravens picking at the carcass. Strangely, it was only skin and meat; no skeleton could be seen anywhere.
Luckily we found a pair of my old “opera” glasses in Beastie, so we were able to get a decent view and tune into another episode of the Nature Channel.
Things started to get interesting when a coyote showed up about 30 minutes later. We watched for a bit, and I attempted to take pics with my little pocket point-and-shoot as well as the phone’s camera. Neither of these yielded more than a nearly indecipherable dark spot against the white snow. This wasn’t going to cut it.
I decided to put the completely zoomed in iphone camera up to one of the binocular lenses to create an instant zoom on steroids for the phone. It was really difficult (you should try it sometime if you don’t believe me), but I got it to work. I struggled throughout the duration with this method, so when you look at the pics, you can hopefully appreciate how difficult it was to obtain them.
At 4:56pm, guess who sauntered down the hill like clockwork — the grizzly was gigantic, and after pulling the main carcass out of the snow where "he" buried earlier, he put on a real show of ripping hunks of meat off the bone and walking around.
Check out the video to see the bear in action:
We watched “him” for nearly an hour hour. We’re so glad we stayed on for as long as we did. We were rewarded in the end with him walking to the other side of the water, digging in the snow, and pulling out his secret stash from before: large parts of the bison skeleton with big chunks of meat on it. Grizzlies are known to be very intelligent animals, and this just proves how clever they really are.
Today was truly a “pinch me, this can’t be real” day. Again, our hearts are bursting with gratitude and thanks.
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