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Winter’s Wildlife

by | Feb 10, 2010 | 0 comments

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Two bulls on the Madsion.

During the winter months, large wildlife such as elk are creatures of habit.  They live in the same neck of the woods, not wanting to expend their fat reserves on needless travel in deep snow.  Even with the threat of death from wolf predation, the two bulls above won’t move to the wind-blown mountain peaks with the rest of the bulls.  They use the river and it’s deep runs for a safe haven when wolf packs come through the area.  So far, they are still alive, but many cow and calf elk in this region have been taken down.  Historically, dating back to the late 1920’s there have been 600-800 elk on the west side of Yellowstone National Park.  Once wolves regained their territories after reintroduction in 1995-96, the elk population has dwindled to about 65 animals on the west side during the winter months.  Too many wolves?  Maybe, but why don’t the elk migrate out of the area?  Is the light snow pack keeping them around?  I counted 42 head of elk on Horse Butte, about 5 miles east of YNP.  Normally, these elk migrate to the Madison Valley due to deep snow. But the elk who reside on the Madison in YNP, even in big snow years, are still there……for now.  What does all this mean?  Not sure, I am a fishing guide, not a biologist. Stay tuned for more about wolf and elk dynamics.

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Here kitty, kitty, kitty…..aka lynx rufus.

This bobcat lives between the confluence of the Madison, Gibbon, Firehole and Mount Haynes.  It lives on ducks, geese, swans, snowshoe hares, mice, voles, grouse and squrriels.  I watched it for about 40 minutes a few days ago.  It hunted canada geese, lurking along the river bank, but was unable to catch one.  How many are in YNP?  No clue, not even the Park Service will say how many there are, but believe that bobcats are generally widespread throughout the park.

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Baldy on a stick.

This bald eagle lit out on a burned up lodgepole pine tree, remnant from the 1988 fire.  In wintertime, eagles vary their diet to include waterfowl, since fish reside in deeper water. Without the thermal waters of the Gibbon and Firehole Rivers, the Madison would not have near the amount of open water, vegetation and wildlife that it does.  I once watched a bald eagle race down stream and smack a duck mid-air.  It looked as if someone had shot a down pillow with a 12 ga. shotgun.

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