Wonderful wolf watching in Yellowstone’s Lamar Valley

“There were five wolves asleep at Slough Creek this morning,” the woman standing next to me said. “People were walking right past them and didn’t even notice. The wolves barely even lifted their heads up as people walked past!” She turned away and took another look through her spotting scope before continuing to retell the morning’s events. I took another look through my viewfinder, swiveling the camera on the tripod to scan the surroundings. Several stray bison lumbered through the snow along the other side of the road, with the vast expanses of Lamar Valley encompassing the distance behind them. It was a picturesque winter scene. “The gray one’s moving again,” said the woman. I turned my camera back around and focused on the ridgeline above us. A large grey wolf stepped out of the trees and into the sun. Another wolf soon appeared beside the first. Then a third joined the pair.

Wolf watching is a popular pastime in Lamar Valley. Tucked away in the northeast corner of Yellowstone National Park, people travel to the Lamar from all over the world for the chance to glimpse one of the park’s elusive wolf packs. The valley itself has been described as “America’s Serengeti” by many, as it makes up an integral part of the park’s ecosystem. However, spotting a wolf is often easier said than done. One’s best chance of spotting a wolf is generally to look for people sporting spotting scopes. When a crowd gathers along the road in Lamar Valley, it is often a sure sign that something is nearby.

That’s what led us to stop along the roadway earlier that morning. A small group of people had accumulated and were keenly watching something in the distance. Sure enough, we were soon observing three wolves standing on the ridgeline above us. Two sauntered off towards the right, while the third laid back down amongst the trees. I watched them intently through the viewfinder. It wasn’t long before more people arrived. The side of the road was soon lined with spotting scopes and telephoto lenses, as everyone anxiously tried to spy the wolves.

We quietly watched the wolves for about 45 minutes. They were feeding on an old elk carcass up amongst the trees, and wandering in and out of view. There were two sporting black coats while the third was gray. People came and went, and we happily helped them locate the wolves in their spotting scopes and binoculars. After some time, we eventually departed, leaving the crowd of wolf watchers behind as we walked back towards our car. A lone bison stood off to our right, eyeing us as we walked up the road. I pondered whether the buffalo was aware of the danger that lurked just up the hill behind him. He seemed happy enough though. For him, it was just another day in the life of a Lamar Valley local.