Yellowstone National Park (part 5): Pixel Bears and Wolves

I’ll apologize now, but today’s photos and video are really just for the stories, but bear with me (pun 100% intended!). These are the first wild grizzly bears I ever got to see and photograph (though that’s kind of a technicality). This is one of the main reasons I left Yellowstone earlier than I had originally planned. After tons of driving around Yellowstone, the only bears I was seeing were way up on the hills and the joke among the few friends I made while there was that these are “Pixel Bears”… meaning that in the entire photograph, only a few pixels are actually devoted to the bears. They’re super tiny in the shot, but they’re there. There’s a mother and two cubs in the photo. See if you can spot them. Then take a look at the video and see if that helps.

After a couple days of driving anywhere from 3-5 hours and really only getting these super distant views of the bears, it was getting frustrating.

At that point, my new friend Aaron and I spotted another bear way up on the hill. We assess the situation and though the official rule is that you should never approach animals in the park, there is also the rule that you must stay 1000 feet away from animals like bears. Aaron had talked to a ranger about heading off into the fields off trail, and they said it was perfectly fine as long as we obeyed the 1000 foot rule. So when someone who also stopped on the side of the road with us to observe this bear way off in the distance, they used a spotting scope to measure the distance at over 2200 feet. Looking at the terrain, Aaron and I decided to hike in a bit and see if we could get any better photos. We knew we would stay at least 1000 feet from the bear, plus we had the benefit of not one, but two channels of water separating us from the bear.

Shortly after we started walking in, I noticed six other dark shapes running down the hillside directly towards our bear. It turned out they were bison!

The bison ran straight at the bear, chased it up to the tree line, then started lazily grazing. Aaron and I walked to about 1500 feet from the animals and sat down on a dead tree to see how things developed. The bear slowly circled the bison and headed back into the field to continue feeding, but the bison would have nothing of it and chased the bear across the field and then back up the hillside.

In the end, we never got any decent photos, but I guess it is an amusing story to tell, but then again… maybe you just had to be there.

Oh – and the same went for the wolves… maybe even more so… see if you can spot any wolves in these photos…

If you think you saw more than one wolf in the first photo, think again – what you probably saw are actually elk!

There is one wolf and 5 or 6 elk in the first photo… four wolves and seven elk in the second photo, and four wolves and no elk in the third photo (I think! Even I still have a hard time spotting them and being certain that what I think is a wolf is a wolf… sometimes those rocks can play tricks on you).

To make it a bit easier, here are some incredibly deep cropped versions…

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One thought on “Yellowstone National Park (part 5): Pixel Bears and Wolves

  1. Laura Kushner

    August 12, 2023 at 7:30am

    Love the pixel bears concept. Plenty of those from my trips to Yellowstone and the Tetons.

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