Yellowstone Winter Wonderland Photography Tour

Posted Mar. 6th, 2010 by Daniel J. Cox

This is a bit of a short and late entry. I wasn’t able to get this to the blog before I went to Africa but wanted to share the Yellowstone video with everybody so I’m posting this now. Better late than never as they say. As you will see in the video we had some great photographic opportunities during our week and half in the park. When Tanya and I talk to people about our winter adventure in Yellowstone I never discuss seeing wolves. Our guests and potential guests always ask about seeing them but when you go into the park on the west end , the wolf opportunities are typically few and far between. However, if pushed, I tell people the wolves are there so it’s always a possibility. This year the wolves showed in a big way. On our second trip into the park we saw canis lupis three out of the four days. One occasion we spent nearly half a day watching and waiting for three wolves trying desperately to catch and consume a yearling elk. Thankfully, we never did see them connect and there was no indication that they eventually did. I like to think she did get away.

The whole wolf issue is quite interesting. My wife and I have seen and heard a pack just up behind our house this past winter here in Montana. They have done better than anyone had ever expected and in fact there is now a hunting season on wolves in both Montana and Idaho. I certainly have mixed emotions about the wolf situation. I have good friends that have hunted in Montana for decades and are no longer able to hunt the areas that have always been so prolific for Elk. Amazingly the wolves have done such a great job of preying on elk, many areas are now special permits only due to such low numbers of the this ungulate population. I’ve witnessed wolves killing elk three different times and I will tell you they are efficient! I’m afraid maybe too efficient.

Without question we needed a predator back in Yellowstone National Park and I’m excited to see the changes taking place because they are there. Predators were exterminated from Yellowstone back in the early days of the parks history. For decades elk were allowed to breed and live unfettered by the natural laws of wild. They had no enemies. Now they have plenty and we will see big changes with the parks ecosystem because of it. My biggest concern is knowing that Yellowstone is not big enough to allow nature to go on as it had for the hundreds of thousands of years before man ever showed up. The park is huge but it is an island. It’s surrounded by fences and cattle ranches and small cities and cabins and people. The laws of the land are very different with humans managing the combatants. Not sure how it will turn out but in the end I’m hopeful a middle ground will develop between predator and prey. I love seeing both the wolves and the elk.

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  1. Kevin J RailsbackOn Mar. 6th, 2010

    According to the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, which is certainly not a wolf-loving organization, the elk population in the Northern Rockies has skyrocketed in the last twenty-five years, notwithstanding the reintroduction of wolves in the mid-1990s. Wyoming’s elk population has grown 35%, Idaho’s has grown 5%, and Montana’s a whopping 66%.

    So, how have wolves affected elk? Simple: the presence of wolves on the landscape has made elk act more like elk.

    The elk population in the Northern Rockies is strong — stronger than it was a quarter century ago — but elk use the landscape differently with wolves present — they use it in a more natural, ecologically friendly way.

    And that means hunters have to hunt elk differently. They need to cover more ground and move around the landscape more. In essence, they need to hunt.

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