Yellowstone Reports

Printer-friendly version

False Spring

Early Season Happenings
by Dan Hartman

Feb. 14, 2016

     The warm temps this winter have triggered some unusual wildlife behavior.

     Back in the mid 90's I snowshoed up into the middle of a pika colony high above our cabin.  When I reached my favorite pikas territory, I found fresh ermine tracks everywhere.  Worried that the little beast had possibly killed my favorite pika, I dropped to my knees and called down to the snowy depths.

     "Are you alright down there?"

     Instantly a muffled "beep" sounded from below.

     That was the only contact I've ever had with a pika in January and February, the dead of winter months.

     Well, that has changed.  On the 8th I snowshoed up to the pika colony with Nathan and Linda and their YA class.  To our amazement a pika gave it's alarm call then darted back into its' tunnel.

     My boreal owl study officially begins March 1st, but I've often heard them calling much earlier.  Once, in 2010, on January 1st.  But, having said that, the earliest prolong song, (which means a possible nest) has been on March 2nd.  Twice.  This year one sang his prolong song on February 11th.  My friend Ron and I snowshoed in the next afternoon and found the cavity he most likely called from.

     A friend from Missoula dropped by today and said black bears are being seen near town.  Grizzly tracks were spotted near Kalispel.

    Even though we're getting snow this week, the temps remain above freezing during the day.  I would expect more early sightings in the next few days.


View slide show

Pica Calling

Boreal Owl


The Cavity