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Spring in Yellowstone
Spring in Yellowstone

Spring has sprung in Yellowstone

Spring has sprung it Yellowstone and now its time to go for a drive. Most of the gates are open and all soon will be.  The weather is shaping up, and Yellowstone’s peak predator viewing is in full swing.

Around the first of April Grizzlies without cubs started coming out of their dens followed shortly by sows with older cubs.  We are still waiting for the bears with new cubs to emerge from their dens with new little balls of fur, but the wait won’t be long.

The Canon Pack wolves are moving back into the Hayden Valley after wintering elsewhere with less snow. The Lamar and Blacktail packs have been seen throughout the winter and continue to put on a nice show for the lucky who find them.

[caption id="ps_captionIns" align="alignright" width="250"] Mountain Bluebirds have brought their splash of color to Yellowstone[/caption]

Many grazing animals are looking pretty rough as always after a winter of meager food foraging but the will fatten up as the longer days and warm sun make the meadows bloom with lush grasses and forbes although the rally weak ones will be harvested by the wolves and grizzly bears. Bison calves are dropping in all the valleys and Elk will start calving in June, an unfortunate few will be dinner fare for the predators, but such is the circle of life.

Bluebirds are again bringing the flash of iridescent blue to the earth tones of the sagebrush steppe. White Pelicans are again on the Yellowstone River eating their four pounds of trout per day, a feast that will last them throughout the summer. Golden Eyes, Merganzers and Mallards are already a common sight on the rivers and a few harlequins have their spring territory staked out at LeHardy Rapids. Other birds like the American Avocets and grebes are just passing through.

Spring in Yellowstone is often cold and snowy because of its average elevation of 7,600 feet above sea level but it is an amazing time to be in Yellowstone. The mountain peaks still have multiple yards, meters, and in some places dozens of feet of snow on them and the open valleys have lost theirs. This causes all the animals of Yellowstone to concentrate in the valley bottoms.  The valley bottoms are where the roads are. From Yellowstone’s roads in spring gather the photographers and wildlife watchers, in the know, who can get away from home before the summer rush when the schools release their children upon the resorts of America.

[caption id="ps_captionIns" align="alignleft" width="300"] Snaggletooth the Grizzly Bear at Mud Volcano in Yellowstone National Park[/caption]

In early summer the snows of the Yellowstone Plateau melt then scatter down the Yellowstone River, the Snake River, and the Missouri River delivering irrigation water to a good portion of the United States.  After the snow evacuates Yellowstone’s peaks, the valley wildlife of spring scatter to every corner of ecosystem. High, and low they go throughout the wilderness and the predator and prey show is diminished greatly as the wildlife disseminates throughout the wilderness.

Spring is when I invest most of my photography time in Yellowstone, as is the case with dozens of my friends. For me Yellowstone in spring has become more than just a portfolio packing time for my photography, it has become a time to again see my photographer friends from across the world who all gather here for a common interest, a time we can compare experiences of the past year – a rendezvous of sorts of folks who share a passion for wildlife. I have come to enjoy this renewal of friendship with like-minded souls as much as the wildlife and landscape photography experience itself.

I love Yellowstone in spring.


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Daryl L. Hunter