#493- Yellowstone Wolf Drama

2009-06-17

Hi everyone-

As many of you know I was recently in Yellowstone for a few days. It was a quick trip but proved to be one of the better ones lately for action.

The images that I am posting today are a bit graphic so if your not down with that then you should probably move on. That being said, the images also depict the life and death struggle that goes on in Yellowstone every day.

One of the coolest parts of the park is that you really never know what is going to happen, when or where. You can increase your chances of getting good shots by learning about the animals and their habits, spending time in the park and by talking to other photographers, park visitors and guests. But sometimes you just need a little luck.

On the day that these images were shot I had a little of both going for me but mostly luck. I was in the right place at the right time and it payed off.

I had headed out to the Lamar Valley shortly before sunrise after getting up at 0400. There were plenty of other people around and I figured this was probably a better place than most to potentially see something play out.

Now my thoughts were with two animals, wolves and grizzlies. They usually seem to be the ones who can create drama where ever they go.

After driving around for a while I came upon a group of people pulled over, just by their actions I knew something was happening. They were rushing around, setting up cameras, and pointing.

Then I saw it. A large female elk (cow) was on her back and kicking wildly into the air. That could mean only one thing, she was fighting for her life. I quickly ditched the truck and made my way over to where the people where. I looked down and there was the former Slough pack alpha male wolf with the elk. He had single handily taken her down and was now finishing off the job. And he wasn't 75 yards from us.

I quickly shot a series of images and looked around for other wolves. But it was just him. Several bystanders mentioned up to two other wolves that might not have crossed the road earlier in the take down. But they were no where to be seen.

The wolf was now dragging the elk down over the hill. This took both out of everyone's view. Bystanders started to file away, either to continue their travels through the park or to look for a better vantage point.

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At this moment I realized I could not find my wallet and set out retracing my steps to locate it. After looking for about 5 min thought it may have come out in my sleeping bag while I was changing. Sure enough in the back of my truck I found it in the bag.

So while I was kneeling on the tailgate of my truck I though now would be a good time to change out the batteries in my camera. As I was doing this I noticed something moving to my right. By this time I was completely alone along the road. Everyone else had moved on.

When I looked up there was the the black wolf heading in my direction and in its mouth was the fetus of the elk it had just taken down. I quickly re assembled the camera and began shooting hand held kneeling on my tailgate. Not the best shooting conditions but I had no time to do anything but that.

My heart was racing and I was really hoping that I was catching the images and that they would be good enough to share. Luckily the light had not changed to much and the settings were pretty close to what was needed and it all worked out.

The following images were shot with in the 30 second it took for the wolf to pass by. It was one of those amazing Yellowstone moments that could happen anywhere in the park at any time.

I hope you enjoy them, have a great day!

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7 comments:

Chuck said...

WOW!

Barry Armer said...

Cool action shots Brian!

I guess the moral of the story is don't go running around Yellowstone unless you're faster than an Elk! :-)

Well done!
Barry

Gordon said...

reminds me, I need to book my flights - going the week of labor day, Grand Tetons and Yellowstone - come join me :)

Anonymous said...

Wow is right. If he's carrying away the choice bits its a sure bet that there are pups to feed. Can't wait to see!!!

Ken Conger Photography said...

Raw nature. Wow series of images. Never know what's around the bend in YNP. Blue Skies.

Andi said...

Being an animal lover, it was hard to look at these images. But is was harder to turn away because they are so beautiful. Nice work.

ChrisC and JonJ said...

Sad story(re:the elk/fetus) but still incredible! Ya gotta love Mother Nature!