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Good Guy and Icon in Yellowstone

A Conversation with Good Friend Bill Hamblin
by Dan Hartman

April 28, 2014

     Over the last twenty some years some of you have come across a friendly guy standing in Lamar Valley scoping the far away slopes.  You asked, "what are you looking at?".  He turned, gave you a smile and offered his scope for a look.  Inevitably what you saw were grizzlies moving across an open meadow.
     That nice accommodating  guy was Bill Hamblin.
     I sat and talked with Bill about what brought him to our Nations first and best National Park and what keeps him coming back.
     When Bill came home from Vietnam, he returned to school for his masters to receive his teaching degree in History and Political Science.  However after student teaching he decided to go in a different direction.  A job in Wisconsin led to a transfer to Idaho Falls and eventually Yellowstone.
     In the 80's he met our mutual friend, Steve Groat, and soon after Steve introduced me to Bill.  A lasting friendship began and continues today.
     In those days if you wanted to spot grizzlies one had to patrol Mt Washburn and Antelope Creek.  This was four hours from Idaho Falls.  Bill would leave after work, get there around dusk and stay in the Park until Sunday morning when he would return home and another week of work.  When the wolves were re-introduced in "95, Lamar Valley became the place to be.  Funny thing was, while everyone was scanning for wolves, Bill was picking out grizzly after grizzly.  To be honest, we did not know many grizzlies existed in the valley until Bill showed up.
     Now Bill has retired and no longer is just a week-ender.  Today he's in the middle of a six week visit, even staying in a motel. (He usually sleeps in his car.)
     As we sat and talked Sunday afternoon, I asked him a few questions.  One of course, "What's your best bear day ever?"
     He answers quickly, like it was etched in his brain.  "Twenty one grizzlies, thirteen blacks and nine wolfs for good measure!"  You'll find talking with Bill it's wolfs, not wolves.
     "What's your most unusual sighting?"
     "One night we were watching wolfs on a carcass from Daves Hill.  The next morning, we were surprised to see a mountain lion had claimed the kill.  We were watching him, when four wolfs returned and chased the cat up a tree.  Soon after a grizz showed up and took what was left of the carcass."
     "Is there anything you are amprehensive about running into in the woods?"
     "Oh, yes.  Ticks!  They scare me to death.  It seems when ever I go off road with friends I'm the only one that gets a tick!  Everybody else is clean!  What makes it even worse is the fact I sleep in my car.  No showers there!"
     It's funny, a man who started out to be a teacher but then changed his mind, has in the end become a teacher after all!  To think of the hundreds of people, especially children, he has eduacated on the behavior of bears and other wildlife, it's easily equal to what they would learn in any classroom.
     As Bill explained to me, "I don't write letters or go to conferences to debate the issures of preserving wildlands.  I instead expose people to natural scenes through my scope and let them decide if what they are seeing is worth saving".

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Bill Hamblin