Wildlife up the North Fork 26 Dec 2014

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Merry Christmas!

I suppose I can still say that since technically the 25th is simply the transition from Advent to Christmas. A big part of me wishes we could continue the celebrations because these days are the best in my opinion. The big celebration is done, and now we can really relax enough to enjoy all the work. That’s what Mike and I strive to do, despite the world wanting to resume that light speed pace.

Yesterday we did just that – along with lots of other people in the area. You see, the snow fell on Christmas Day and the wind was calm yesterday. It was the perfect excuse to drive up the North Fork of the Shoshone – east of Yellowstone.

We drove all the way up to Pahaska (as close as you can drive to Yellowstone’s East Gate in winter), where many were out cross country skiing, snowshoeing and sledding, and then slowly made our way back down. The parking lot was fairly full at Sleeping Giant Ski Area. Above it, the wind had only reached the tops of some of the ridges.

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We hoped to see some moose, and eventually saw that shape in the willows.

141226J1250612It was a yearling that still seems to be surviving by itself. Normally you see Mom with them still.  Amazing to see it still thriving.

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Big Horn sheep were sprinkled all along the way – still in rut, though we never really saw a battle. There were ample photo opportunities, though.

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The bachelor bison were out, but we didn’t stop by to see them, and we spotted a few elk as well, but nothing close enough to warrant a stop. Just before we left the canyon, a car was pulled over and it took us a minute to see what they saw – eagles. Lots of them in a couple of trees. Unfortunately, no good shots of the bunch because many flew off, farther downstream.

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At first glance, we thought we saw both Balds and Goldens, but the ‘Goldens’ turned out to be immature Bald Eagles.

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And then we noticed all the ravens – on an elk carcass that wasn’t terribly old. No wonder all the eagles were in the trees – they were full. And whatever took down the elk (one of the wolf packs in the area? Mountain Lion?) probably also wasn’t terribly far away. We glassed the hillsides, but didn’t see anything.

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The photographers started coming in as well. My camera doesn’t have the best of lenses, so no way to really zoom in much more than I have it here, so we didn’t stay much longer.

Back at home, we also managed to see a coyote on the hills above us and watched a group of about 20 deer chase him off. A good wildlife watching day for certain.

 

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