Spring in Yellowstone is often referred to by locals as “mud season.” It is called this because snow and ice are melting in the mountains and the water is flowing downward. Some parks are closed at this time because the roads become unstable due to the excess water. Hyalite Canyon is closed and the Going to the Sun Road in Glacier doesn’t open until summer. The road through Lamar is open all year. For local wildlife watchers, it’s always a bittersweet day when the park is opened up to the masses. On winter days it can feel as though you are the only one in the park.
In spring, the grizzlies are coming out of hibernation and it is a much anticipated event to spot their first appearance. Each year there are ponds in the northern loop that melt and the ice soon breaks under the weight of grazing bison. When this happens one will eventually fall in and drown – attracting bears, wolves and coyotes to feed. One evening as I was on my way out of the park I decided to pull into a parking lot near the ponds. I waited about 15 minutes and was amazed to watch a large, male grizzly bear bound out of the woods on a nearby hill. He made his way down to the ponds for a swim. Make sure you have your camera ready with appropriate settings already dialed in as these sightings can come as a surprise.
Grizzly Bear #399 and Her 4 Cubs
Over in Grand Teton, 399 and her 4 cubs make an appearance – stopping traffic and captivating onlookers. There are about 750 grizzly bears living within the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem and visitors are often surprised when one or more wander near the roads. Bear spray is a must if hiking and be sure to stay a good distance away from these large bears.
Back over in Yellowstone – a grey wolf from the Wapiti pack runs along the river in Lamar Valley and then crosses the road.