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01 April, 2010

It wasn't spring in Yellowstone

We headed for Chico Hot Springs and Yellowstone National Park on March 30th. Had a heavy snow in Chico the evening of the 30th, a lot of snow was still on the ground when we got to the park on the 31st. After bragging about spring was on it's way a few days ago, I should have realized that April Fools day was coming up soon and that winter wasn't over yet. Well, as we entered the park, we saw this big elk, it looked funny. Yes, it was missing it's antlers, this was probably one of the guys that we had seen on our last trip, but he sure looked different. Notice where the antlers are normally affixed to the skull. The antlers will start growing at the rate of 1 1/2 inches per day, and it will not be long before this guy looks like an impressive male again.
Before we left, guess what we saw. Not one but two guys still sporting their finest. I'm sure it will not be long before these are gone as well, but for now, he's got bragging rights.
If you have been reading about the wolves in Lamar Valley, you will not be surprised that Rick McIntyre and and wolf watchers were within a couple miles of Mammoth Hot Springs, not in the valley that once sported 37 wolves. Competition destroyed part of the numbers and now the mange was about to eliminate them completely. I'm sure, as fertile a hunting ground as Lamar has been, it will not be long before some new blood enters to establish a name for themselves. But in the meanwhile, guess who has taken over. As we drove thru Lamar, we saw no wolves but we did see several coyotes and then we saw a fox.

Yes, in their favorite spot on top of a rise near the Soda Butte was a group of Big Horn sheep. They are still in the lower parts of the park until spring returns the lush pastures to the higher elevations. If you look back on the blog, you will see a picture of only the horns of a Big Horn. This time I got the whole thing.

The best was saved for last. The male elk are losing their pride and joy. The females are waiting for spring and the birth of their calves. This one happened to find a new friend who it appeared was ahead of the rest, getting the winter house cleaning done early. The magpie had comfortably rested on the neck and head of this female elk and while I was taking this photograph I noticed the magpie had found something in the fur of the elk that it was enjoying. Those bugs probably wished they had left earlier, as the magpie was having a feast.
Instead of going back to Yellowstone on April Fool's day, we headed home early, as winter was for sure taking over. Snow, windy, and cold. Not a good day for prospecting or enjoying the park.
We did see a bear who was out of hibernation and plenty of bison.