A Mule Deer beds down in a yard across the river an Osprey perches atop an alder tree, scanning the rushing water for a brown or rainbow trout, two eagles soar high over the landscape, they lock talons and tumble twice in their embrace. This is see from the balcony of my room at the Absoroka Lodge, in Gardiner Montana, on the outskirts of Yellowstone National Park. I have been asked to help lead a trip for the Wolf Conservation Center of South Salem. With the help of Wildlife Biologists, Nathan Varley, Ph.d and Linda Thurston of the Wild Side Tours and Treks the trip focus will be the recovery of the Grey Wolf and Grizzly Bear to the ecosystem.
Having arrived a day in advance of the WCC guests tomorrow will be a day to explore the park with the intention of photographing these apex predators. With some advice from Nathan my early morning destination is the Blacktail Plateau where a bison has been taken down by a Grizzly Bear. After living off fat reserves in their earthen chambers these bears are anxious to refuel and a bison weekend by the long hard winter will go a long way to satiate the bears appetite. According to Nathan this bison has attracted more than one bear and numerous wolves. The kill was made several days ago but has continually provided viewing opportunities of both species.
Snow still blankets the surrounding mountain tops and early morning temperatures are likely to be below freezing. Fortunately I packed my backpack with my computer, camera gear and GPS, carefully wrapped with my polypropylene layers. Although I arrived in Bozeman Montana at 12:00 Pm, my large backpackers pack managed to get laid over in Chicago. At 7:30 Pm there is still no guarantee when it will be sent to me here in Gardener. Fortunately I have the most important things with me. I will certainly miss my hat and gloves.
Since the gate to the park does not close my plan is to enter the park around 4:30 Am. If I am lucky I could see numerous large carnivores, an scavengers, like this Coyote, my first day out. Tomorrow I will be solo but it will be great to have the expert knowledge of area biologists to steer the the focus of the bulk of our wanderings through this incredible National Park.
On Friday the WCC group will return East and I will stay on, hear in the park, for the weekend to photograph the wildlife and sites of Yellowstone. Throughout the next week I plan to chronicle the experience with photos and stories. Join me for the adventure here and on the Animal Embassy facebook page.