Yellowstone Reports

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Searching Through The Woods

by Dan Hartman

May 21, 2011

Last Saturday I hiked down into Hell Roaring to check a couple of owl nests. I soon jumped two white tailed deer. The great gray nest was empty, so I dropped down two more meadows to my old pygmy owl nest. I had to wade through a couple of inches of water to inspect it. Empty. I figured it would be, as I hadn’t seen any sign on my way in. Fifty yards farther down was a great overlook of Hell Roaring. As I approached the grassy knoll, I heard an elk bugle. Quickly I climbed the hill. There across the valley seven or eight bull elk stared my way. I knew they could not have picked me up that quick, so I looked for a bear or some other predator between us. Suddenly I caught movement off to my right. Several wolves moved through the sage a hundred yards below me. They trotted into the timber then broke out again into the open far to my left. I turned then and started the steep climb back up to my car.
The next day Laurie’s wolf notes stated the Black-tail Pack emerged from the timber at 10:30 A.M. That would be me! My Bad.
All week I continued to search for owl sign. Sunday I walked aspen groves in Sunlight Basin. Monday aspen groves in the foothills of the Beartooths. Tuesday black-tail drive. And so on.
Friday David Tonkyn arrived with a group from Clemson. I’ve been spending time with David and his groups for years. They’ve always been a great asset in helping me in searching the forests for wildlife.
Today we decided to comb an area west of Crazy Creek. I have only been in here once but I remembered it as being pristine wilderness.
We had just entered the timber when we flushed a ruffed grouse. When we broke out into a large meadow a black bear loped off to our left. We spotted him again crashing through an aspen grove ahead of us. Crossing a stream then we worked our way toward a stand of mixed conifers and aspen trees. Suddenly a soft, low, “who” sounded from the forest. I stopped, not sure I had really even heard anything. Then there it sounded again. A low fairly audible “who” like this usually means you’re near a nest. It’s made by the female not wanting to give the nest location away but trying to alert the male owl something is approaching. For the next half hour we examined the many mistletoe (witches brooms) and snags for some sign of the owls. Finally we gave up and headed back to our cars as it was beginning to rain. I’ll return later and resume the search.

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View slide show

Clemson Guys & Gals

Black-tail Wolf

Black-tail Wolf

David and one of his Students