Winter Arrives in Yellowstone

Marie and I expected November to bring heavy snow and frigid temperatures to our little mountain town, but the weather here in Silver Gate turned out to be surprisingly mild.  The few inches of snow that did fall soon melted away, and it was often warm enough to hike without a winter coat.

Almost every morning Thunder (our Border Collie) and I have been driving into Yellowstone looking for wildlife.  Our normal routine is to drive until we reach the pullout near Tower Junction that overlooks a black bear den.  The black bear mom’s nose has sometimes been visible at the den’s small circular entrance, but I haven’t seen either of her two cubs since October.  It’s pretty amazing to be able to observe a bear’s hibernation on a daily basis.

 

Black Bear Mom Asleep in Her Den

 

November Morning in Lamar Valley

 

 

Just before Thanksgiving Marie and I put both dogs in the car and drove to Denver to spend the holiday with my family.  Driving through the park soon after leaving home we were surprised to see several members of the Junction Butte wolf pack cross the road in front of us.  Before I had time to get out my big camera they’d already moved too far away for good photos.

 

Junction Wolf Crossing the Road

 

Towards the end of November a big bull moose – the largest I’ve ever seen in Yellowstone – began spending time near Lower Baronette, only a 10 minute drive from our house.  The first time I saw the moose he was hanging out with another, smaller bull.  Mostly they spent their time grazing on willows, but every now and then they took a short break for a little friendly sparring.

 

Bull Moose Profile at Lower Baronette

 

Bull Moose Play Fighting at Lower Baronette

 

Bull Moose Grazing at Lower Baronette

 

Moose Scraping a Tree with His Antlers

 

Bull Moose Facing Off at Lower Baronette

 

That giant moose, sometimes alone and sometimes with his buddy, became a somewhat regular fixture at Lower Baronette.  I had a chance to photograph him in a range of conditions over the course of more than a week.

 

Two Snow-topped Bull Moose at Lower Baronette

 

Snow on a Moose’s Back at Lower Baronette

 

Snow-dusted Moose Grazing at Lower Baronette

 

Bull Moose Face-off in Lower Baronette Willows

 

Portrait of a Moose with a Snowy Nose

 

Bull Moose Sticking Out His Tongue

 

Dark Clouds Behind Soda Butte

 

Wolf Pack Testing a Bison Herd

 

Coyote Resting Near Footbridge

 

Winter truly arrived in mid-December, with regular snow and sub-zero temperatures.  As the creeks and rivers began to freeze over, I heard that a family of seven river otters had appeared near the Confluence area (where the Soda Butte Creek merges into the Lamar River).  Finally, on one particularly cold morning, I found three of the otters catching small fish in the icy water.  They entertained an ever-growing crowd of happy photographers for hours before finally retreating to one of their dens for a late morning nap.

 

Three Otters Watching Tourists from the Lamar River

 

Otter Emerging from Icy Lamar River

 

Two Otters on Snowy River Bank

 

Otter with a Snow Beard in Lamar River

 

Two Otters Fishing in the Lamar River

 

Two Otters at the Edge of the Lamar River

 

Marie’s son Aidan came to visit just before Christmas, and we managed to find the otters again one afternoon.

 

Three Otters on a December Afternoon

 

Two Otter Buddies at the Lamar River

 

Two Otters Running on the Ice

 

I’m already tired of shoveling our driveway, but I love the way the wildlife activity picks up this time of year and how few people there are in the park.

 

Bison in December Snow

 

Coyote in Snowy Grass

 

Snowy Creekside December Portrait

 

Happy holidays!

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