Friday, May 24, 2019

Watching a Grizzley Bear on its Kill, Togwotee Pass

The cow elk stood in the meadow and was bleating to its newborn calf, but there was no answer. Meanwhile the sow grizzly raised it bloody snout and smelled the cow. It stopped eating and covered its kill with grass and leaves, making a cache of the meat and letting all the other predators know that it owned the kill.
The sow and her cub left the cache and moved towards the cow elk. Perhaps the elk would make a mistake and the bear would get another kill, this time a full-grown animal, but as the bears neared the elk it finally gave up and faded into the woods.

It was our fourth trip to Grand Teton National Park, and we were still had not encountered a bear. We had a great time each visit, one of my favorite moments was when Renita had a stare down with a cow elk.
Ducks were busy feeding,
the elk cows were on Willow Flats,
lots of great wildlife moments but no bears.
We decided to head up Togwotee Pass as the daily Jackson Hole Newspaper had a cover photo of a sow grizzly and cub. Filling up with diesel we drove six miles up the pass and there was a bear jam! Parking our truck, we hurried to the crowd and spotted the bears.
We were told later that the sow had emerged from her den this spring, with two cubs but that a boar grizzly had killed one and tried to kill the other, (the male bears kill the cubs so that the females will go into estrous and breed again). After it lost one of its cubs, the sow had retreated out of the park and moved her remaining cub, seven miles up the pass.

(Notice the bloody snout on the sow).Several members of the crowd had seen the kill, describing how the elk calf had walked in front of the grizzly and how the bear had lunged from its stalk and killed the calf. The newborn calves are scentless and covered with spots, but this calf moved right in front of the bear. The cow elk had no chance to warn its calf as the bears were downwind from the elk.
At first, we could see the remains of the calf, (look to the left of the bear and you can see some of the dead calf remains), but the bear covered it so well that the cache looked like the floor of the aspen forest. The bears returned to the cache and the cub nursed while the sow kept a close watch of the crowd.
Later the two bears came out and the sow ate some grass, typical for this time of year, before they returned to the cache. A game warden showed up, (to protect the bears and the people, thank you), and he was relieved that the bears were over one hundred yards away from the crowd, (one hundred yards is considered the minimum safe distance).
We did hear that a black wolf had been seen nearby and so we drove up the pass but never saw it. It was cold and windy and so we returned down the pass and headed back to our place at Star Valley.
Clear skies

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