Thursday, May 30, 2019

Memorial Day Weekend, looking for more Bears

Two days later, we decided to return to Towgetee Pass and the park and look for more bears. Our first stop was up the pass and we didn’t see any sign of the sow and cub grizzly we had seen on Thursday. Heading further up the pass we stopped at an overlook and Renita spotted an animal running across the snow field. Unfortunately, it was too far away to identify even after I took several images with the three hundred mm telephoto lens.
Driving back down the pass, there was a bear jam right where we had looked earlier. This bear jam was for a cinnamon black bear boar and we watched it as it ran between trees.
A school bus unloaded by us, and teenagers crowded in. Among the crowd we did see our son, his mother in law, and his wife as they were also on a bear watching adventure.
The black bear disappeared into the trees and so we decided to head to Pilgrim Creek, (it’s a prime spot to see a grizzly in Grand Teton National Park. As we neared the first pull out the sight of a huge bear jam greeted us. Not surprising as it was a holiday weekend, but it forced us to park half a mile away from the bears.
Didn’t matter as we both needed the exercise and we soon joined the crowd of photographers watching a sow grizzly and her two-year-old cubs. We listened to the ranger as she told us it was bear 793 and her cubs. The sow has been given the name Blondie by her fans, but the park service only refers bears to their tag number.
The ranger also mentioned that bear 610, which had been missing for a year had been reported and confirmed in a recent sighting. If true it means that the sow had not been shot by a hunter as rumored by a local newspaper.
We watched as the bears grazed on the new grass. They finally decided to cross the road and the sow had a talk with the cubs before she returned to grazing.
The cubs choose to frolic in the snow, as they wrestled in mock combat.
The mother bear finished eating and looking at the stopped cars, the rangers blocked the traffic both ways, she crossed the road. This of course raises the old question, “Why did the bear cross the road”?
After she made it across both the cubs followed and they all disappeared into the trees.
It had been an entertaining hour and a half as we had watched the bears. So, we next headed south to Willow Flats. Its another of our favorite areas to spot a bear as it’s a place where cow elk congregate to calve.
While there were quite a few elk there didn’t appear to be any bears.
Returning up Towgotee Pass, we saw a fox that was busy hunting mice in a patch of grass and sagebrush. We did not see any more bears, regardless of that we were happy that we had seen four bears in one day, which is a great day for us. Clear skies

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

Friday, May 17, 2019

Water, Water, Water, Fixing Water Damage in our Slide in Camper

To paraphrase an old saying, is that man plans, and God laughs. We had plans to go to Yellowstone, search for bears, and move our boat from Flaming Gorge to Star Valley. After settling in here, our fifth wheel was fine, but when we opened the door of our slide in camper we found substantial water damage. The heavy snows had partially collapsed the roof, broke open the roof vent, and warped the floor and table surface.
So, after many google searches, we decided to make the repairs ourselves. That’s’ why we have been so silent with no new blog posts for the last nine days. Each day I have been inside the camper wielding a trust scraper as I remove the soaked ceiling material, both foam and thin wood paneling.
Because of the mold I purchased a safety mask. Wearing it makes me sound like a deep-sea diver, but it has worked in keeping me safe and I was going to buy one anyway for use in our lapidary. Removing the inside of the roof showed old leaks that we didn’t know existed.
Yesterday we patched the many roof holes, installed a new roof vent cover, and today we have more demolishing quality time before the rebuild starts. It started raining last night and the forecast is for rain, (snow), for the next fifteen days. Today, I hope to finish the odds and ends of tear down and then it’s the rebuild!
In the grand scheme of life, nothing serious just fixing stuff.
Clear skies

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

The snow stopped in Dubois and the sky cleared. Still we waited a bit for the sun to melt the ice on the road before we headed up Togetee Pass. The pass is over 9500 above sea level and so we knew we would run into ice covered roads. It had been a while since I had driven them, but we took it slow and we only had to use four-wheel drive for a few spots.
Watching, as we traveled over the pass, we did not see a single animal track. It wasn’t really any surprise as the snow was deep and cornices stood prominent on many ridges. There wasn’t anything for the animals to eat. They all had to be down in the valleys.
We saw our first elk just before we entered Grand Teton National Park. They were in a small herd of about twenty animals and we didn’t stop as we were really hoping to see grizzly bears. Arriving in the park we turned north at Moran Junction and continued past some of our favorite places.
The Oxbow on the Snake River, had a few American White Pelicans, but no elk were in the nearby meadows. Further up we passed Willow flats, another great bear spot, but the elk hadn’t yet reached there. The cow elk use the flats to have their calves and so when they are there, so are the grizzlies, as the calves are one of their main protein sources. While there were no elk at Pilgrim Creek there were a few cars parked and waiting for the appearance of bear 399 and her cubs.
No one had seen her yet today and after waiting a little bit we decided to head to our summer base camp, (home), at Star Valley Rv Resort. We saw a few buffalo grazing across from the Cunningham Homestead, but we finally spotted large herds of elk at Antelope Flats.
We have been coming to the park for over thirty years and in all that time had never seen the elk migration. In the fall and spring many of the elk come out of Yellowstone and head south to their winter range, which is the refuge just outside of Jackson, (They used to winter in Jackson before the town was built).
This year we stopped as we saw elk everywhere, and some of the elk herds were moving across Antelope Flats, One was a bull elk that had not lost his antlers.
During the migration the elk move about twelve miles a day, meaning it takes them about ten days to reach Yellowstone, ( they don’t travel in a straight line but follow the route taught to them by their mothers.
Many other tourists were at the same spot we were, but they were taking pictures of the Teton’s, not realizing that they were missing part of the third largest migration of ungulates in the world, (the largest is the African migration on the Serengeti, and the second largest is the caribou migration in Alaska).
We were tired and finally left the National Park to drive the fifty miles to Star Valley RV Park. Arriving we were happy to see that our Bighorn Fifth Wheel had survived the historic snow fall. We set up, hooked up the water, and sewer lines, slid the slides and turned on the furnace. Home at last!  Clear skies