Yellowstone Reports

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Still searching the forests

A couple wildlife encounters
by Dan Hartman

June 16, 2019

     In a spring that's been extremely productive just driving the roads looking for photos, I still enjoy walking the woods, searching for that impossible situation.  Heck, usually I see more just driving to my hike than I do walking the forests.

     I've seen a great gray owl three out of four times in an area east of Trout Lake.  I know it is time to phone in another bad year for great grays in my area, but I just can't let it go.

     Yesterday, I was in the woods at 6:30am.  It's extremely steep for the first 100 yards, after that it's just steep.  I crossed a large meadow, entered a stand of timber, then crossed 100 yards across meadow.  Walked through more trees, crossed a small meadow, more trees then entered a 300 yard long meadow that really gains elevation. 

     So far I had seen no sign of the owl.  I crossed through more trees then emerged in a huge meadow.

     Somewhere in the dense timber surrounding me is where I felt the nest should be.  I found a down log back in the shadows and sat down to listen for nesting sounds.  It was 7:15am.

     The forest around me was alive with sounds.

     Sandhill cranes complained in the distance.  A three-toed woodpecker drummed nearby.  Western tanagers bleeted from the tree tops, and the ever present robins chirpped as they searched for worms.

     It rained the day before, add that to the heavy dew and the whole landscape was soaked.  Already my feet were sloshing in my shoes.  A half hour later I had heard nothing owl like.  I moved to a new position across the meadow.  Suddenly an elk charged out of the timber.  I moved closer to a laarge doug fir as she circled me.  Obviously I was near her hidden calf.

     I walked further upslope.

     Still no owl sounds.  This really surprised me.  The female should be begging for food from the nest and by now the chicks should be yerping.

     I decided to search the timber.  Owl nest possibilities were everywhere.  Tree snags and mistletoe clumps were so plentiful I had to stop constantly to glass them for owl sign.

     Eventually, I emerged back in the big meadow.  I expected to see the elk cow again, but instead found two bull moose feeding 75 yards away.

     I circled them and started back down slope.

     Suddenly I caught movement in the timber to the west.  It was the cow elk.  Her head was down and appeared to be chasing something.  Then I saw the black back of an animal running away from the charging elk.  Wolf?  Bear?

     Out into the meadow burst a medium sized black bear with the elk just a few yards behind.  Instantly the elk spotted me and changed her attention my way.

     Quickly I headed for the trees.  In the next meadow I ran into a bull bison.  He eyed me as I walked past.  I cut through more timber to reach another large meadow far to the west.  I still hadn't seen or heard the owls.  By now it was after 9o'clock.  The owls would be settling down for the day.  It was time to give up.

     Disappointed, I headed straight downslope.  A white-tail deer sprung by me.  In a small meadow I found a moose skull.

     Tired and wet, I made it back to my car. 

     I am disappointed I can't locate the owls nest, but it's hard to be frustrated after a stroll in the forests.


View slide show

Bull Moose


Bull Moose

Black Bear

Cow Elk


White Tailed Deer

Moose Skull