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We went to Yellowstone to see the elk and saw a wildlife jam of gigantic proportions

Living the Wild Life

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Photos: Bill Schiess |

The huge grizzly continued digging up rodents in the tall autumn grass in Hayden Valley in Yellowstone Park as 100 tourists fired away with their cameras. The bear worked a small ravine while a park ranger tried to keep the tourists in check.

A son-in-law and a grandson twisted my arm hard enough during the last week of September, forcing me to go “looking for some bugling elk.” I had to deliver some flies to Island Park anyway, so it took just one little twist to make me go, and I was pleased with the outcome as they were pleasant people to be with.

We did not find any elk until we got all the way to Mammoth Hot Springs and then only cows. But just inside the North Entrance near Gardiner, Montana, we found several herds with bulls. The bulls were lazing around, not getting excited even when other bulls walked nearby. It appeared that the rutt in the northern area of the park was about over.

We wanted to go to the Tower area and Hayden Valley, but due to the snow falling in the park the day before, Dunraven Pass was closed. So we bypassed Tower and backtracked to Norris so we could visit Canyon Village and Hayden Valley.

RELATED | Yellowstone closes Dunraven Pass for the season

Just west and south of the Canyon Junction, we ran into two large harems of elk with bulls still very active. They were bugling and chasing other bulls that got too close. Wandering cows were treated rudely and driven back to the herds. One of the herd bulls showed evidence of recent battles with several points from one antler broken off.

In Hayden Valley, most of the bugling elk remained hidden, but the herds of bison and the bear were very active acquiring loads of fat for the upcoming lean season. We made our way toward Fishing Bridge and stopped at LeHardy Rapids in search of some rare Harlequin ducks. I was not disappointed as we saw a total of eight of them and watched as they dove into the icy waters for food. Even though they were not as colorful as they are in their breeding colors, I was able to get some pictures of them, an item on my still large bucket list.

As the day got shorter, we decided to make one more trip through my favorite valley of Yellowstone. The bison split up into small herds and began swimming the Yellowstone River. While crossing the road, a bison-jam ensued.
If you have ever been to Yellowstone, you have seem some humans acting stupid. Cars stopped, people got out to get a selfie with a bison or get up close and personal with them. I watched as a cow bison with a late “red” calf, being harassed by a huge bull with people trying to get close to them. We were lucky someone did not get gored.

The bear had crossed the road during our absence, and with the park ranger gone, people were pressing forward to see if they could become part of the bear’s fat resources. But we tired of all the stupidity, and everyone must have survived because we did not read about any human carcasses being cleaned up by ravens.

It was a wonderful day even with all the bear and bison jams. Even with the recent winter-like weather raising its ugly head, I would love to make one more trip to Hayden Valley. The road from Tower to Canyon Junction is now closed for the season. All other roads are scheduled to close November 4, depending on the weather. I am wishing for an Indian Summer to coincide with Halloween.