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  • Writer's pictureDeborah Kade

Bears, Bison, and a Blizzard - Oh My!!!!

Quite the exciting day at Yellowstone!!!

We saw a mother grizzly with two cubs; a bison train stopping traffic; and we were in blizzard conditions for about five miles.

I think momma bear is saying, "Are you looking at me cuz I'm looking at you!"

I was over the moon thrilled to see a grizzly with her cubs!!!

"Grizzlies in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem average between 300-700 pounds (136-318 kg) for males and 200-400 pounds (91-181 kg) for females. In Alaska, where fatty and nutrient-dense salmon is readily available, grizzlies can weigh as much as 1,200 pounds (540 kg)."

Mom kept a eye out for all the people taking pictures. People taking pictures with their phones were disappointed with the pictures and tried to get closer. Some people were getting very close so others shouted at them to get back. Lots of Darwin award winners in this group! Maybe the shouting was a little too loud and scared the bears off. If this didn't happen, I think momma and babies would have stayed longer.

"While bear attacks at Yellowstone are rare, the park averages about one bear attack per year, officials say. Eight people have been killed in bear attacks at Yellowstone since the national park was established in 1872, data shows."

I don't know this grizzly's number. Grizzly 399 is the most famous in Yellowstone.

"Grizzly 399 is followed by as many as 40 wildlife photographers, and millions of tourists come to the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem to see her and other grizzly bears. Grizzly 399 is the most famous brown bear mother in the world, with her own Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts."

Can you see all three?

"The latest data shows the population of grizzly bears in and around the park at 965. That's more than quadruple the number that existed when they were first protected by the Endangered Species Act in 1975. Despite their fearsome reputation, though, grizzly bears would rather avoid people than attack them."

The Yellowstone grizzly became endangered as their habitat was destroyed by logging, mining, oil and gas drilling and land development. As a result, the powerful bears were threatened with extinction. Grizzly bears are an important symbol of wilderness and a key component of our unique Western wildlife heritage.

Bison in a train formation, bison eating, bison standing, bison lying down......

Bison: The Basics

Male 2,000 lbs 5’6” at shoulder

Female 800-1,000 lbs 5’ at shoulder

Average life span 15-20 years


Bison 30-45 mph for 5 miles

Race Horse 40 mph for 1 mile

A bison would outrun a horse with rider.

Standing Vertical Jump 5-6 feet

Bison are found in North America and Europe

Small, cow-like horns

Very thick coat of hair with a pronounced “bear” looping around the ribcage

Faster than buffalo

Have a large shoulder hump and massive head

Bison are grazers. They feed in the morning and at night, eating grasses and sedges.

Bison wrap their tongue around a tuft of grass, pinch the grass off between their tongue and lower teeth, and swallow it practically whole.

Bison never shed or drop their horns

Both cows and bulls have horns

Horns are black & turn grey as bison age

Horns begin to emerge just prior to second year

Horns are used as a weapon

22-26 inches long

2.5 feet apart from tip to tip

Bison can be found alone or in a herd. A herd’s social structure is always changing.

Passing on a solid yellow line is not allowed but a bison does what it wants. At least it got out of our lane.

Beautiful scenery as we drove up toward Mammoth Springs.

Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces

Mammoth Hot Springs is a large complex of hot springs on a hill of travertine.

"The terraces were created over thousands of years as hot water from the spring cooled and deposited calcium carbonate (over two tons flow into Mammoth each day in a solution). Because of the huge amount of geothermal vents, travertine flourishes. Although these springs lie outside the caldera boundary, their energy has been attributed to the same magmatic system that fuels other Yellowstone geothermal areas."

"The hot water that feeds Mammoth comes from Norris Geyser Basin after traveling underground via a fault line that runs through limestone and roughly parallel to the Norris-to-Mammoth road. The limestone from rock formations along the fault is the source of the calcium carbonate. Shallow circulation along this corridor allows Norris's superheated water to slightly cool before surfacing at Mammoth, generally at about 170 °F (80 °C). Algae living in the warm pools have tinted the travertine shades of brown, orange, red, and green.

Thermal activity here is extensive both over time and distance. The thermal flows show much variability with some variations taking place over periods ranging from decades to days. Terrace Mountain at Mammoth Hot Springs is the largest known carbonate-depositing spring in the world. The most famous feature at the springs is the Minerva Terrace, a series of travertine terraces. The terraces have been deposited by the spring over many years but, due to recent minor earthquake activity, the spring vent has shifted, rendering the terraces dry."

Minerva Terrace

Activity shifts dramatically around this terrace, named for the Roman goddess of artists and sculptors.

The cascades of travertine beside the boardwalks were formed in the 1990s. Some years, they are dry.

In dry areas, you can clearly see the many layers and the varying depths.

The deposition of travertine at Mammoth is unique as most other hot springs in the park accumulate sinter (silica or geyserite). Below Mammoth's surface, hot water encounters limestone, which dissolves readily allowing it to become saturated with calcium carbonate.

The birds nest in the holes

Main Terrace and Mound Spring

After walking around Mammoth Hot Springs, we decided to drive to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and the Lower Falls.

The Gallatin Range

Quadrant Mountain 9,957 ft. (3035 m)

Antler Peak 10,063 ft. (3067 m)

Swan Lake

It started snowing when we came upon some bison and their calves.

A baby bison, called a calf, is born orange. They stand right after birth and will start eating grass at one month. Calves will nurse for 9 months.

Bison are grazers. They feed in the morning and at night, eating grasses and sedges.

Bison have a gestation period of nine months and one calf is born in April or May.

Just minutes after they’re born, calves stand on the ground and within a few hours they’re running.

Calves are born with their eyes open, weigh 25-40 lbs and have a reddish-brown coat that turns brown as they age.

Baby bison are called "red dogs".

It kept snowing harder and harder. Then we encountered blizzard white-out conditions for about 5 miles. There was no place to turn around so we proceeded with caution and hoped the snow would subside quickly.

"Blizzards are dangerous winter storms that are a combination of blowing snow and wind resulting in very low visibility. While heavy snowfalls and severe cold often accompany blizzards, they are not required. Sometimes strong winds pick up snow that has already fallen, creating a ground blizzard.

Officially, the National Weather Service defines a blizzard as a storm which contains large amounts of snow OR blowing snow, with winds in excess of 35 mph and visibility of less than 1/4 mile for an extended period of time."

Then the snow let up. Depending on what section of the park we were driving, the weather kept changing. It was strange!

Weather conditions were horrible at the Lower Falls so I couldn't take the picture I had hoped to take but...... you can't change the weather.

Michael and I had the spicy wild boar ragu. Delicious!! Yummy!! Tasty!! Do you think I liked it?

Used some of the baguette to mop up the sauce.

Huckleberry ice cream for dessert. What a treat!!!

We went to the West Entrance to charge the car up. Bear proof trash cans. Wonder if Yogi can open it as "Yogi the Bear" is smarter than the average bear. Sorry for the bad joke.

Another terrific day comes to a close.

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