The Lamar

The first time I went into the Lamar Valley of Yellowstone was in the winter of 1998-99. Despite the reintroduction of wolves in 1994, there were still huge herds of elk in the river bottom. I remember thousands and thousands of This past week the only elk in the Lamar Valley was a pile of dirty hide and red meat. The shapeless carcass was 150 yards off the road and we had heard that wolves were feeding on the lifeless mound. We were told to be there starting at pink sunset or before the blue dawn.

The Lamar Valley, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

We arrived at 3, no sign of wolves. Other than the dozen bison on the North Ridge and a few black ravens in the trees dotted along the Lamar there was no sign of life anywhere. Clouds raced along to the south spitting snow. A few minutes of glassing around the valley revealed professional wildlife photographers on the ridge overlooking the carcass. They had spotting scopes the length of my arm and probably telephoto lenses equally as long.

Elk Carcass, Lamar Valley, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Soon the wolves would appear, perhaps beginning with only one, circling, watching. By nightfall, the feast would begin. In a week the elk mound would be gone and another act of the Lamar Valley drama would begin.

Mule Deer, Paradise Valley, Montana

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