Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

Glade Sun

November 20, 2013

ENJOYING NATURE: The animals of Yellowstone National Park

CROSSVILLE — Yellowstone National Park has over half of all the geothermal features in the entire world ... geysers, mud pots, steam vents, etc. For some folks, those hot things are cool, but for me, the animals rule.

In Yellowstone, you can watch the animals in their undisturbed, natural, daily struggles for life and death. It's a great place to see the animals because of the large areas with no trees to block your view. The Lamar and Hayden Valleys in Yellowstone are like a vast African plain. The animals are far enough away to interact naturally, without human interference, but within view. However, for some, like wolves, grizzly bears, black bears and mountain goats, you will need good binoculars and a camera with a long lens. Bison, elk, pronghorn, bighorn sheep, otters, coyotes, moose and others may be closer to your car. On our trip, we saw all of the above and more.

Twice we saw grizzly bears, within 200 yards of us, that had claimed a dead elk or bison for their dinner. Actually, it was for breakfast, lunch and dinner. One grizzly ate and slept beside a dead elk at the edge of a small lake for 3 days. Another was across a river from the road, munching on a dead bison that it had dragged up from the water. The large male claimed the meal for himself, while a female and three good-sized cubs waited patiently, a couple hundred yards away, for their opportunity to eat. Although we were probably 150 yards away, the smell of the ripe bison was very strong. I don't know how a grizzly with a nose, hundreds of times more sensitive than ours, could stand to eat the decaying meat, but in nature, if you don't eat, you die. I guess you learn to just hold your nose and chow down.

We were lucky enough to see wolves, but not too lucky. We talked to people who watched the wolves chase and kill an elk the evening before. When we got there, the elk had already been consumed, and the wolves were moving on, tiny specks in our binoculars, about two miles away.

Grizzlies and wolves are often not always seen by Yellowstone visitors. But there is one place, a mile outside the park, in West Yellowstone, Montana that I highly recommend. It is the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center. Every hour or so the staff at the center hides food under rocks and logs and then lets several grizzlies into the large outdoor enclosure to search for the food, like they might in the wild. Once a day they even let 10 or 15 little kids in to hide the food. A staff member assured me that they count the kids going in and coming out, before they turn the grizzlies loose. At the Center, you can also see two packs of wolves close up. The size of their feet and the length of their legs is the first thing you will notice about wolves. You can't see that from two miles away. You can also watch the wolves feed and interact as a pack. The cost of admission to the Discovery Center is only about $10 and it includes two consecutive days of visits. It is a great deal, and even though the animals aren't roaming free, it is the best, and maybe the only way, to see wolves and grizzlies up close.

In Yellowstone park, wolves hunt in packs, while coyotes usually hunt alone. We watched several different coyotes quietly stalk through the sagebrush, hunting for small rodents. They hunt with their ears. A coyote will slowly and quietly walk, turning its head left and right. With ears perked up, they will cock their head from side to side, to zero in on the sound of an unseen rodent in the brush, or even under the soil. Then, after sometimes minutes of listening, they will crouch, crouch deeper and pounce high in the air and then down with both feet onto the unsuspecting meal. I was almost as patient as the coyote to get a photo of one in mid-pounce. When I turned around, I noticed a young couple behind me with a big smile on their faces. They also got a photo of the pounce.

As you know, there are lots of bison in Yellowstone. They often stop traffic as they take their time crossing a road, or even ambling right down the middle of a road, for as long, and as slowly, as they want. But, bison can move remarkably fast, and they account for more injuries in Yellowstone than any other animal, mostly because some crazy humans assume they are slow, dumb and tame. The dumb ones are the people who back up within ten feet of a 2,000 pound bison and say "take my picture."

We saw otters several times. Once, there were eight of them swimming and diving in a stretch of fast water on the Yellowstone River. They were finding some kind of food, and putting on a great show for the 100 photographers lining the river bank. I mentioned last week that the way to spot wildlife is to watch for the wildlife spotters. That was how we knew the otters were there, but you can also watch the animals spot other animals. A lone pronghorn standing and staring helped us see a coyote more than once. An elk herd, all looking in one direction, indicates a bear or wolf or some other predator might be nearby.

If you haven't been to Yellowstone National Park in a while, or ever, put it on your list and plan to spend a week or more. Most of the park is open from mid-May until late September. Yellowstone is a great place to see animals, and a great way to enjoy nature.

Comments, questions or suggestions for future nature articles are welcome at don.hazel@gmail.com

1
Text Only
Glade Sun
  • County residents urged to vote

    Cumberland County has around 39,000 registered voters, as well as a strong reputation for voter participation.  However, as of press time on Tuesday, only 4,300 residents had taken advantage of early voting for the Aug. 7 primary and general elections. Local officials are predicting less than 50 percent of registered voters will cast their vote in the 14 days of early voting, plus election day. Only 23 percent of registered county voters participated in the May elections.

    July 30, 2014

  • Board amends by-laws

    At the July meeting of the Fairfield Glade Community Club, the board of directors approved a vote to amend the club's bylaws regarding uncontested elections of board members, effectively declaring Bob Diller and Steven Smith new board members.

    July 30, 2014

  • Naiad Kuhlman.jpg Senior olympian on the run for good health

    No one can get away with telling Naiad Kuhlman of Crossville that age is a barrier to exercise. The avid runner, personal trainer and instructor at Cumberland Medical Center’s Wellness Complex at Fairfield Glade won’t buy the excuse.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • Enjoying nature.jpg Get your mink coat on the road

    It is interesting what animals you see crossing the roads sometimes. When animals cross roads, you can get a look at them, that wouldn't be possible if they stayed inside the cover of trees or grass. Sometimes, it is just a fleeting glance and you aren't sure what you saw. When you go into the woods looking for animals, they usually hide or leave the area before you even know they are around. But, roads are wide open with no cover. Also, most mammals are nocturnal, so they are out when we aren't. Anytime that I am on a two-lane road at night, I am always watching intently for wildlife in the headlights.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • Read the latest edition of "The Bulletin"

    The Crossville Chronicle-Glade Sun also publishes a newsletter called "The Bulletin" in which you'll find a schedule of Glade activities and events, a restaurant and dining guide, golf information, and even tour schedules. Click here for the latest PDF edition of "The Bulletin."

    April 21, 2010 1 Link

  • Patches of Life: The replacement years

    I need a new refrigerator. There are some other things on order too as we seem to be in the replacement year of our life. Everything from the light bulbs to the computer seemed to agree that this is the year of replacement.

    July 30, 2014

  • Abacus Column: Tennessee the third most corrupt state in the U.S.?

    According to a recent article in Time magazine, Tennessee is ranked third among U.S. States in political corruption. I am not sure how they measure such crime in order to make such a charge. Does some purveyor of statistics identify the number of elected officials proved guilty in a court of law; or merely charged with corruption?

    July 30, 2014

  • A Time 4 Paws celebrates pet adoption after 3 1/2 years

    Three and a half years ago, a local no-kill animal welfare organization known as A Time 4 Paws (AT4P) received an important email. A Nashville animal shelter volunteer asked if AT4P could take two severely abused English Pointer mixes. The email said they didn't want to take back two dogs they had placed in foster care for fear they would have to kill them.

    July 30, 2014

  • A Time 4 Paws collecting shoes to help Soles4Souls in fight against global poverty

    Attention anyone with a closet! Those shoes no longer wanted are desperately needed to fight the human tragedy of global poverty.
    That’s the message being delivered by A Time 4 Paws, which has launched an ongoing drive to collect shoes to help the poor. Used and new shoes can be dropped off at A Time 4 Paws in Crossville and can be left in the blue recycling bin outside labeled Soles4Souls.

    July 30, 2014

  • FFG Treasure Hunt set for Sept. 5

    The 2014 Fairfield Glade Treasure Hunt is set for Friday, Sept. 5. This has always been a fun evening for those who enjoy puzzle solving, figuring out clues or just having a good time.

    July 30, 2014

Marketplace Marquee
Parade
Must Read
Section Teases
Seasonal Content
AP Video
Couple Channel Grief Into Soldiers' Retreat WWI Aviation Still Alive at Aerodrome in NY Raw: Rescuers at Taiwan Explosion Scene Raw: Woman Who Faced Death Over Faith in N.H. Clinton Before 9-11: Could Have Killed Bin Laden Netanyahu Vows to Destroy Hamas Tunnels Obama Slams Republicans Over Lawsuit House Leaders Trade Blame for Inaction Malaysian PM: Stop Fighting in Ukraine Cantor Warns of Instability, Terror in Farewell Ravens' Ray Rice: 'I Made a Huge Mistake' Florida Panther Rebound Upsets Ranchers Small Plane Crash in San Diego Parking Lot Busy Franco's Not Afraid of Overexposure Fighting Blocks Access to Ukraine Crash Site Dangerous Bacteria Kills One in Florida Workers Dig for Survivors After India Landslide Texas Scientists Study Ebola Virus Smartphone Powered Paper Plane Debuts at Airshow Southern Accent Reduction Class Cancelled in TN
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Weather Radar
2014 Readers' Choice
Graduation 2014