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It’s In Your Nature: The second time was the charm

If you recall, last June, Yellowstone National Park experienced unprecedented flooding from heavy thunderstorms, rapid snow melt, and then extensive damage to roads and bridges. The park had to close and safely evacuate many visitors and campers. My wife and I had gotten to Cody, Wyoming, our step off point to travel through the park, on the very day Yellowstone closed. Terrible luck. Well, since last year’s trip was cut in half, I decided to try again, hoping there would not be a repeat of another calamity.

In two of the three next columns, I’d like to share some photos of Wyoming mammals and then some “cool” Wyoming birds. For those who already made it west, I hope they rekindle some memories. For those, like me, who’ve had this on their bucket list for 20 years, it may prompt you to see the beauty of the West and how thankful we should be for our ancestors who have protected these areas for us.

Grand Teton National Park was my first nature area to explore. It offers a variety of habitats, with some areas predominantly confers. I spent a good deal of time in the Laurence Rockefeller Preserve where I followed a few trails without “bumping into” another soul. Just what I hoped for. Moose, ground squirrels, and a wide variety of birds greeted me there. That was a great start to Wyoming.

Yellowstone National Park surprised me. Mostly because of how vast an area it encompasses. I will admit the rental car “put on “ quite a few miles since most major areas of interest were usually 15 to 20 miles apart. The other surprise was the vast areas of regrowth from major wildfires. Yellowstone apparently has had tens of thousands of acres burned in the past 20 years.

If you get to Yellowstone know that you’ll still experience some traffic jams and bumper-to-bumper traffic. (But not your Route 22 congestion.) You would think the wild world would enable you to avoid them. But these “jams” are not caused by accidents but by a “cocky” bull bison who decides to walk a half mile down the middle of the road, or the first herd of elk or bison seen by folks like me stopping and snapping pictures of these magnificent animals.

I hope you enjoy these photos and appreciate what beautiful areas still survive in a country with 335 million people.

Test Your Outdoor Knowledge: Yellowstone National Park encompasses ___ square miles. A. 1,200; B. 2,150; C. 3,400; D. 10,000.

Last Week’s Trivia Answer: Rather surprising, the pronghorn antelope’s horn is not a “true horn” like a bighorn sheep. It, like elk and deer, sheds its horn leaving a short stub which quickly regrows to it new pronghorn shape.

Email Barry Reed at breed71@gmail.com

ABOVE: One of my goals in Wyoming was to see my first grizzly bear. On day one, I saw a large bear about a mile away. On the next day, a very cold and frosty morning, I was at the right place/right time to see this grizzly sow at about 100 yards rooting up (ground squirrels?) in the sagebrush.
LEFT: A double bonus was the sow was accompanied by her year-old cubs. One which seemed to always lag behind at the apparent displeasure of “mom.”
I was a bit surprised not to see more mule deer. I was probably fortunate to photograph this doe after later reading about the huge winter kill of both mule deer and pronghorns from a tough winter. BARRY REED PHOTO
Still in velvet, this bull elk rests after filling his belly. His antlers are still in velvet and by late August will probably have doubled in size and reveal his massive “headgear.”
LEFT: It was June 21 and a morning temperature of 26 degrees at dawn. After defrosting the car and heading to some wildlife areas, I found the frosty landscape to be rather picturesque. This large bison reveals his frosty head and hide while feeding in the frosted sagebrush of Yellowstone.
A yellow-bellied marmot (akin to our local woodchucks) peers from a rock near its den. Yellowstone Lake is in the background. Look for them on the rocky slopes of Yellowstone and the Grand Teton National Parks.
ABOVE: Our drives throughout Yellowstone revealed small groups of bison and this year's calves like this group. But, I more commonly found solitary bull bison feeding throughout various regions, including the parking lot area of Lake Yellowstone Hotel.
This 4- or 5-week-old elk calf is spotted much like a white-tailed deer fawn, but is already nearly the same size as a 1-year-old “white tail.” BARRY REED PHOTOS
Similar to our Eastern chipmunk, the golden-mantled ground squirrel scurries about the sagebrush in rocky areas. This one was eating the seeds of a ripening flower.
Sometimes hard to see, but very common, the Wyoming ground squirrel is nearly the size of our local gray squirrel.
Just like mule deer, pronghorn antelopes were hard to find in Yellowstone, also because of the really “tough” winter this year.