Yellowstone Exploration day 2
Our morning officially started at 7 when we got onto the bus and headed towards the park. Today was bison day, the main objective to find a herd close enough to the road to do a herd demographic survey. Our first stop was at Tower Roosevelt for a bathroom break. There we saw a couple of bison and a far of herd of elk that some people were watching with their scopes. After using the restroom and observing the bison and elk we started driving again. During the drive we talked about some of the history of the bison. We ended up finding a good sized herd near the road. We circled around the herd up the hill behind them to try to get a better view to be able to count the members. We counted 36 total, with 2 being adult males. We counted the adult males, adult females, juveniles of either sex, and calves of either sex to complete the herd demographic. Unfortunately, there were no collared bison so we couldn’t take a scat sample. When we were done counting we moved on. Before reaching our next stop we saw a bunch of cars stopped ahead and we saw people standing with their scopes pointing towards a large herd of bison. We knew that there must be something besides bison in that meadow to attract such a large crowd. Sure enough, the Junction Butte Pack was mozying through the meadow teasing the clumps of bison as they went. The highest count that our group made was 17 wolves but we speculated that the whole 21 member pack was down in the meadow. They are the largest pack in the park with an estimated 10 pups this year. We saw some of the pups fooling around with the bison looking after the adults had passed. As we observed them through binoculars and scopes we talked about the pack and a little about the history of the Yellowstone wolves and the pack’s dynamic. After the pack had long loped out of view we moved on to try to find some moose and mountain goats. We stopped at a few peaks and we eventually found some mountain goats. They were really small on the side of the mountains, so small that you couldn’t see them with your bare eyes. You needed a scope or some really good binocculars to get a good view. After we felt we had seen enough we drove back down the road to a restroom stop. A few of us went down to the nearby stream and found some wolf tracks in the mud. After the break we went to our hiking spot where we hiking down to the Lamar-Yellowstone River confluence. On the way to the our lunch spot I found a little checkered garter snake, which was adorable! We ate down at the rivers edge and then continued our circuit hike looping back around to the bus. We stopped to take some pictures on some of the giant rocks on the way. Then we headed back to Gardiner for our guest speaker, Lauren. She was from the Bison project and she talked to us about the history, the management, and how they affected their ecosystems. That concluded day 2 of exploring Yellowstone.