During the winter months only the northeastern portion of Yellowstone remains open for vehicular travel, but this portion of the park provides an excellent and uncrowded area for viewing a variety of wildlife. The hot springs in Mammoth remain accessible as well, and the winter can create an even more dramatic landscape as the steam from the springs blend into the snow. During this particular visit, we were fortunate enough to spot a pack of wolves, which often remain elusive despite their successful reintroduction to Yellowstone nearly 25 years ago.
Mammoth Hot Springs
Mammoth Hot Springs
Traveling through the Lamar Valley, we spotted several wolves a few hundred yards off as evening approached.
Several wolves on the ridge (middle of photo)
A grey wolf blends in to the surrounding landscape.
The wolves occasionally called to one another through yipping, but only while far away from the human observers. One wolf silently worked its way right behind us. Contrary to my expectations, the wolves were consistently difficult to sense – by moving silently and blending in to the environment they traveled almost as if they were shadows.
This wolf, with a radio tracking collar, appeared right behind us.
After watching the wolves for a little while, we moved about a quarter mile to the west, and observed the same pack of wolves crossing the Lamar River by a combination of walking on ice and swimming. The wolves passed close by, traveling south near a herd of bison. The bison clustered themselves tightly, nervously standing ready in case the wolves decided to close in. The bison now had wolves on multiple sides.
Wolves cross the Lamar River
Depiction of the Lamar Valley and approximate movements of the wolves. The first spotting of the wolves was on the ridge in the top right. Distance scale is approximate.
A wolf observes its surroundings.
As dusk turned to dark the wolves continued their coordinated movements in the valley. While much of their food comes from elk, they are capable of hunting bison. It is also possible the wolves were hunting elk that we were unable to see from the road. Watching the conclusion of a wolf hunt will have to wait for a future visit. . .