Monday, May 27, 2013

Yellowstone - Part One - The Black Bears

Since my first visit to Yellowstone over 10 years ago, it always has been a magical spot for me and I yearned to go back. This year I perused the travel packages available through the park and found one that seemed catered just for me. It was called Spring Wolf and Bear Discovery. It was a small guided tour package over multiple days and they even gave you your own cabin.  I just had to go. So I booked it, made all my travel arrangements, and counted down the days until my trip. It was marketed as having somewhat rigorous hikes so I started training at the gym at the beginning of March and bought new hiking boots. I knew that we would see black bears and I can't say that I was that excited to just see more black bears since I can see them in New Jersey, but out there they come in different colors. One of which is called cinnamon.  So that was interesting enough to hold my attention and even in New Jersey I don't pass up a bear sighting.

Our first sighting included a distant and obscured view of a sow black bear and her two cinnamon cubs.  It was a madhouse in the parking lot and we passed the time making sure we were all looking in the right area and guided others visually to that area.  We waited patiently for something to happen, because all we could see was a small black patch of fur and occasionally a cinnamon patch of fur near a tree.  

Our initial view of the sow black bear and her two cinnamon cubs.
 Then something started happening and they started to move around. I got a lot of blurry and obscured shots of the trio.  I was panning around trying to find them and accidentally got two shots of an adult cinnamon black bear.  In my small camera viewfinder, I thought "Grizzly?," but convinced myself it was just a shot of one of the cubs although I was skeptical.
The cinnamon adult black bear.
Then the cubs scurried up the tree and gazed to the right.  Mom had been hidden for quite awhile.  It turns out the trio had seen the adult cinnamon bear and the cubs took refuge up the tree. In the meantime, we spotted another adult black bear and I grabbed a few awful distant shots of him as he ambled among the dense and distant brush.  The cubs were still hanging out and we took off to find other animals.  

The cubs up the tree.
We came back later, when it was pouring, and found the tree much closer and slowly ambling about. They posed like champs, but the photos showed signs of the heavy rain. 
The trio up close.
The next morning the group met at 6 am for the day. It was much more peaceful and quite at the time. We went to the same area that had all the activity above to see what bears we could see.  Instead of the mad house, there was only a handful of cars and it was so quiet you could hear a needle drop.  There was a black bear ambling about pretty close and the best parts was him scratching himself with a pine tree. They tree was already missing branches meaning it's probably much loved by this and perhaps other bears.  So he scratched away and then came back later for seconds.   
Everybody loves scratching their itch.

Here he is post scratching. 
We had other very distant views of other black bears or fleeting drive by glances of black bears up and down steep embankments surrounded by a mob scenes complete with people parking in the middle of the road.  I didn't take photos of those because they would be awful sitting butt shots at awful angles. 

Our tour ended and I had 1 1/2 more days by myself to explore the rest of the park or do whatever.  One early evening, I stumbled upon another mob scene of people.  It was this guy ambling about the dense brush and he too had an itch that needed scratching. It's also possible and likely that both bears were marking their areas with less to do with itchiness.  After he finished scratching, I thought he was doing the stiff legged walked and I asked my neighbors but no one had any idea what I was talking about.

Another itchy chap.

All better!