This is a continuation of the Wildlife Series.
Part 1, which talks about Elk, Coyote, Wolf, Bison and Bighorn Sheep is located here.
I didn't know that Pika existed until I saw it in Yellowstone, but today I can say that it is by far the cutest animal I've seen there. A mouse-sized rabbit is the best way to describe a Pika.
It's fluffy brown skin provides perfect camouflage, as it resides between similarly colored rocks and stones. You'll find it hard to spot in my video above as well. Pika is now an endangered animal, so I'm all the more glad to have seen it. We saw more than one Pika close to the top of Mt.Washburn during our hike there. Pika's prefer colder climates, which was why the altitude of over 10000 feet provided them with the perfect weather to set up their homes.
Spotting a red fox was random and unexpected. We were waiting in Hayden Valley during dusk for a grizzly to show up. At around 6.30 pm there was a commotion caused by the arrival of a fox into the scene. It was in the downslope grassland area next to the road when it was first seen and it was in hunt of a smaller prey.
The fox was super nimble, wily and agile during the course of it's chase. It pounced on it's prey when we were watching it - providing us with a great view of its red furry skin, its lean body, its thick bushy tail and its hunting tactics. The back of ears were black in color, but the tip of its bushy tail was white. The tall grass provides perfect cover to most of the fox's body. The way we followed the fox's path in the grassland was through it's tail. The white of the tip of its tail was in sharp contrast to the green grass and indicated to us that the fox was there. Our high vantage point also helped.
The fox was the most nimble animal we saw in Yellowstone, and I finally understood what "foxy" meant. Quite a clever one, this little fella.
I'd be lying if I said I didn't want to see a grizzly bear. Right from the moment we planned to visit Yellowstone, the thought of seeing a grizzly bear made me excited. I saw a black bear in Yosemite couple of months ago, but that made me want to see a grizzly a lot more. Yellowstone did not disappoint.
Right after we saw the above mentioned fox, we started scouring the meadows of Hayden Valley in search of the elusive grizzly. We kept looking, and suddenly, the lady standing next to us mentioned that she saw a bear in the meadows through her binoculars. After looking in the direction she pointed, we could see a brown bear shaped animal walking from the meadow into a thicket of trees. In what was probably a minute, the bear walked into the trees and disappeared. While we were sure what we saw was a bear, there was no way to confirm that it was a grizzly since neither of our binoculars were that powerful. It did seem too big to be a black bear, and the Hayden Valley area is where grizzlies live (not black bears) - but there was no way to be sure.
Next, we went to the top of the hill where many folks were present with their spotting scopes. We were now watching with the professionals! Soon after, the same bear stepped out from the other end of the trees into a vast open meadow. This time the professionals confirmed that it was indeed a grizzly. There was a couple from Utah who asked us if we would like to see the grizzly from their scope, we were overjoyed and immediately said yes. The view from their scope was super clear, I could see the grizzly's thick brown fur, its pointy ears and its hump. It slowly walked along the meadow for quite a while, pausing here and there to eat something. Even from that far, it was evident that the bear was huge. After what was about 20-30 minutes, the bear disappeared, but that was long enough for everyone there to see it. That was the first sighting I had. But that wasn't all.
I was lucky to spot the grizzly again in Grand Teton NP. Again, during dusk on our last day, we ventured out from Colter Bay Village to see if we could spot any moose. As soon as we got on the road, we got stuck in a traffic jam. A traffic jam at a random locaton in a National Park around dusk only means one thing - a wild animal has been spotted. I stepped out of the car and walked as fast as I could towards the origin of the traffic jam. As soon as I reached, someone mentioned that it was a black bear. At first I was unable to spot anything, but pretty soon I could make out the shape of a bear as it was walking in the trees less than 200 feet from the road. In one of the clearings between trees, I realized that it was in fact a grizzly, not a black bear. All of us watching the grizzly followed its path in parallel on the road, as it kept walking in the trees occasionally pausing to eat. After a couple of minutes of walking this way, the trees ended and a small open meadow began. I wondered if the grizzly would now step into the open meadow. Very cleverly, it disappeared into a tunnel on one side of the road, came out from the tunnel on the other side of the road and disappeared into the woods. Ingenuous! Animals are way clever than we give them credit for.
I have to admit that though I was excited, I was also scared seeing a grizzly from such close quarters. If I was the only person there, I wouldn't have dared to follow it.
Read about some more animals in Part 3 along with tips for wildlife viewing!
What are the animal encounters that made you feel scared? When did you first learn to appreciate their intelligence?