Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Bison and Griz Face-Off on Wapiti Trail

Heading back from my hike to the Ribbon Lake up near Canyon,  it began to sprinkle, the thunder rolling over head.
Something briefly caught my eye. I looked left into a meadow, all tall and golden, and saw a huge brown boulder. Then the boulder moved. A bison was approaching this boulder, head lowered, stiff legged. I  quietly slid my pack off, grabbed my binoculars and sighted a huge griz, the tell tale hump clearly visible from his profile. The face off was about 100 yards away from me, either, or both, could be in my lap within a minute.
I always hike in stealth colors. Today I was wearing my camo pants, a black shirt, carrying a black pack. I'd quit making noise, instead thinking about the winter season, still no concrete job offers. Maybe I'll just go play near the canyon lands in Arizona.
A tiny pond beset with various prints, mostly elk.
Suddenly, the bison charged, the griz took off running, closely tailed by a very huge, very angry bison. Then they both stopped, stood still. This is mating season, a time you don't mess around with bison. It seemed I was frozen and quite thankful they ran away from the trail I was standing on. Watching them, I was unsure whether to call out, Hey Bear, so I didn't. Figured the bear had enough worries at this point.

The bark peeling from this fallen log create wonderful hieroglyphics, Modern Wilderness Art. 
I glanced down the trail. I couldn't remember if it would swing around that particular meadow, bringing me once again within  yards of these fearsome creatures. I pulled my bear spray, held both hiking poles under my arm, watched the two still in the feild, waiting each other out. I started walking, calling softly, hey bear. Neither turned their heads towards me.

I'm glad I took a few pictures on the way in. On the way back I decided to protect my camera, missing shots of the encounter. Let me be honest, though. I was more concerned with not getting in the middle of the fight than filming it. 

Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, quite a drop off.

My hiking poles, map, some raisins on the edge of the Grand Canyon in Yellowstone.
I crossed several of these fields, saw some prints on the way, deterimined the stride and markings were those of large bear. A year ago, one person was mauled to death by a griz on this very path. I still hiked alone, as usual. In the rain and late September, few hikers are out, and ususually get a much later start than I do.
After the close encounter, hiking back to my car, keeping a close watch for other bears, I couldn't resist laughing out loud at my good fortune of witnessing a rare sight so close. I even let out a couple wolf howls!

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