By JERRY PRICKETT
TELEGRAM STAFF WRITER
YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Wyo. — When it comes to watching wolves in Yellowstone, they are definitely the “top dog” — but the grizzly is probably the “head honcho.”
Interaction between the top predators is an interesting phenomenon, even for experienced wildlife watchers like Waldo Montgomery of Belton.
He’s observed some rare sharing — and baring of teeth.
Montgomery’s Facebook post tells of one encounter where the animals got along.
“On May 9 I was in Yellowstone’s Lamar Valley near Fishermen’s pullout watching the fascinating interaction between a grizzly and members of the Junction Butte Pack over the possession of a bison carcass.
“Wolves are better hunters than grizzlies, but when they take down an elk or bison, a grizzly often quickly appears on the scene and, being bigger and more powerful, generally succeeds in driving the wolves off the carcass.
“Oftentimes, grizzlies will lie on the carcass for days steadfastly refusing to share with wolves and other predators. Their attitude appears to be ‘Mine! All mine! And I’m not sharing!’ After watching this grizzly and another one the following week, I came to the realization that this was not always the case. Some bears do share!”
He made several videos of this interaction at different times. (Links may be seen at the Telegram website, www.tdtnews.com.)
On another occasion, the bear didn’t share.
At the “Boulders” pullout, Waldo was able to get some great video of a grizzly who actually appeared to sleep on an elk carcass. The dead elk was sometimes fully in the lake, but the grizzly pulled it closer to shore. He didn’t appear to be in the sharing mood, keeping even the ravens that feed on most kills away from his prize.
The next day, Waldo went back to the Boulders, standing in cold rain and covering his camera and spotting scope with his rain poncho. “The boar grizzly was still on the carcass defending it from other predators and scavengers,” his Facebook post said.
He later noted that “perseverance and stupidity eventually paid off because just as the rain shower ended, the grizzly decided to abandon the carcass — at least temporarily — and began climbing up the nearby slope. Then, faster than you can say “OMG!” a collared black wolf suddenly appeared out of nowhere and immediately began feeding on the carcass!
“My prayers were answered!”
He spent 20 to 30 minutes photographing and videoing “this magnificent animal.”
Rick McIntyre, Yellowstone’s renowned expert on all of the park’s wolves, soon arrived and identified the wolf — 1048M, the brother of 1047M, the alpha male of the Junction Butte Pack. Word of a wolf sighting at Boulders spread like wildfire and soon spectators were arriving by the bus loads.
“The boar grizzly didn’t possess a great store of patience because after about 30 minutes, he decided enough is enough and charged down the hill,” Waldo wrote. “1048 ran like his life depended on it. But it must have required a lot of exertion on his part because his sides were bulging from consuming so much of the elk carcass.”
Next: Getting close to coyotes.