All posts by Julie Broberg

How to See a Wolf in Yellowstone: Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center

My husband, Brad, was lost hunting at fourteen years old.  Really lost.  Feeling the heebee jeebees from behind, he turned to find a wolf staring at him on the trail — five feet away.

“And then what?”

“I raised my gun.”

“And then what?”

“It walked off.”

That was it.


If you want to see a wolf in Yellowstone, don’t get lost hunting.  Stop at the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center in West Yellowstone.

Wolf in Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center.
Wolf in Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center.

Yellowstone 009The animals at the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center are unable to live in the wild, so are rescue wolves, bears, eagles, etc.  Without the stress of hunting and protecting a territory, these animals can be viewed at their most relaxed states.

And you will also be in your most relaxed state.  Believe me, when you see a wolf or grizzly in person, you won’t have composure to admire it’s coat and wonder what’s on it’s mind.

Grizzlies

Grizzly and Grizzly&Wolf Discovery Center.
Grizzly and Grizzly&Wolf Discovery Center.

The Discovery Center does an excellent job of education, offering talks throughout the day, like the “Bear Spray Demo” we heard.

The naturalist demonstrated bear spray, shooting blanks from her holstered demo can so we could see how far the spray travels (not far enough for me).  She explained that we should be patient if a bear charged us because, after all, it could just be a false charge. She also advised, “Do not run.  A bear is a predator.  If you run, a bear has to chase you.”

If you run, a bear has to chase you.

Finally, she showed how to windmill one’s arms, slowly backing away from a bear.  She mentioned that someone she knew survived a bear encounter by doing this for seven hours until the bear turned and walked off.  Got all that?


Yellowstone 015

Meanwhile, the bears entertained us by playing in the habitat behind the speaker, wrestling, splashing and ignoring ravens who stand around criticizing them.

Uptight ravens are no fun.
Uptight ravens are no fun.

Jago Peregrine Falcon, Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center.
Jago Peregrine Falcon, Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center.

Yellowstone 029The Bird-of-Prey area of the Discovery Center was full of personalities, like the gentle-looking, “who, me?” Jago Peregrine Falcon and the judgmental bald eagles.

We have kept up with the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center via their web cams for both bears and wolves.  It’s a great place worth supporting.

Yellowstone Under Canvas: $400 Tent Overpriced by $267.12

Would you pay $400 a night for a tent?  I did and I feel foolish.

Guess it’s not the fashion to be negative, but I feel duped by a false-positive review of Yellowstone Under Canvas.  Sometimes, it’s just not helpful to endorse whatever you review.  Plus, based on this review, I gave up a night at the fabulous Old Faithful Inn to try this place.  I reserved the Deluxe Tent with a bathroom and companion tipi (the Under Canvas term for teepee).  My only option also included breakfast, so $401.12 later, I had booked one night in a tent. Continue reading Yellowstone Under Canvas: $400 Tent Overpriced by $267.12

Bear Spray? How about Bison Repellent?

I am ambiguous about seeing bears while hiking.  We’ve hiked in the national parks for eighteen years without bumping into a bear on a trail.  Coming around the corner, finding a bear and calmly backing away with my arms slowly windmilling would make a great story.  Except, I know me.  I wouldn’t stay calm.  When I calmly argue with my sons or husband they often ask, “Why are you yelling?”  I’m just not the calm type.  Nor could I play dead convincingly.  Meeting a bear in the wild probably isn’t going to be something I’ll be good at.

Feeling calm? Not me!
But bears roam at their discretion in Yellowstone.  Good at it or not, a hiker might meet one.  And we came to Yellowstone to hike, so this year, we decided to carry bear spray.

Bear spray comes in a holster that facilitates quick draws in case of attack.  My husband carried the holster because he is the only one in our family to own a belt.  (He also walks habitually at the back of our pack.  Odds are, then, if he ever did spray, he would spritz me unconscious while the boys “fed” the bear.)

We attended a bear-safety lecture which taught us to talk to the bear, windmill to look bigger and convinced us that we needed bear spray.  It was $49.99.  No, you can’t take it on a plane, so don’t look for a better price on Amazon.  This is a Yellowstone-gift-shop-necessary purchase.


“Turn your head,” I coaxed. She did!
Most animals like to mosey around at sunrise and sunset.  Not just bears, but moose, elk, bighorn sheep, mountain lions, mule deer and antelope. Both Hayden and Lamar Valley are reputed to be great wildlife viewing areas, so off we went at 5 am to try to catch some photos in Hayden Valley.

We traveled east to Yellowstone Lake and saw a female elk (cow) walking along the road, close as a hitchhiker.  We stopped ahead of her.  I got out of the car and the elk just looked at me while I raised my camera.

“Turn your head,” I coaxed.  She did!


The next elk was also a cow, thumbing it a mile further up the road.  Shortly after, we looked over our shoulders as our car passed a bull elk spotted too late for us to stop.

An hour went by.  My eyes dried out from being peeled for wildlife.  The boys got out their phones.  We started looking for traffic pulled over instead, a sure sign that someone else has detected an animal.   Entering Hayden Valley, we found what we were looking for:   a van, a suburban and three rental cars parked on the shoulder!

“See that telephone pole out there?”  a man asks, approaching us.  He is pointing across a vast meadow of swaying, golden grass. “Follow to the left to the next telephone pole.  I think there is a grizzly one pole height to the left of the first pole.”

Hmmm….

“The bear is lying down but it pops its head up . . . There, did you see it?!”

I hoist the eight-pound zoom lens I’d rented for $140.  At the furthest point of zoom, the grizzly is still a brown smudge between two telephone poles.  The spotter gets excited, shouting that the bear is, “on the move.”  I snap a shot.  I’ve got a photo of a brown blur in a forgettable field of grass.

“Thanks,” I tell him.

Ma-too-er? Juvenile? Is this even an eagle?
The next shoulder-jam, we stop again.  We look and see nothing through the lens.

“An eagle!” an older man tells us.  “On that stump on the other side of the river.  See it?  There’s a log, then a shadow in the grass, and a finger-length to the right is a stump.”

I snap a shot.

Someone else approaches.

“I spy with my little eye,” an old woman lilts at us.  “A pair of mature eagles and one juvenile.”

She’s midwestern but says ma-too-er.  She tells me to snap a shot, so I do just to make her happy.


The next jam was the most common wildlife traffic snarl in Yellowstone: bison.  Bison are huge and ubiquitous.  Brad calls them rattalos because they are everywhere!  A calf approached our car very directly.  While I was composing a shot, I found out that bison are not as doped up as they look.  A huge, male bull shrieked a bellow at the calf and shook its black tongue at me.  Thought I was going to need bear spray.

Bison shrieking so close its eyeball fills my viewfinder.
Bison shrieking so close its eyeball fills my viewfinder.

Eleven hours later, we still had seen no bears other than that smudge in the field.  No more elk, no moose, big horn sheep, mule deer or antelope.  Other than bison, we saw chipmunks, squirrels, Canadian Geese and a vole, which is like a mole, only Northwestern.   After eleven hours, we were beat.  Honestly, as we headed back to Old Faithful Inn, it would have taken a big horn sheep riding a bear to get us to stop.