This week on Find the Animal Friday, I take a look back at a June day in Yellowstone national Park’s Lamar Valley. Known by many as the Serengeti of North America, Lamar Valley is a spot where wildlife watchers from all over the world come to, hoping to see wolves, grizzlies, bison and all the other animals that call the region home. It was here, on a sunny day in 2020, that this week’s image was captured. In this picture, you’ll see dozens of bison, but they aren’t the focal point. Instead, scan the image and see if you can spot the adult pronghorn, the baby pronghorn and a lone wolf chasing them.
About the Picture
I’d spent the morning chatting with some friends who also love everything about Yellowstone National Park. They’d been camping at the Eagle Creek Campground, above Gardiner, Montana near the small community of Jardine. It was the first super sunny and warm day of the season and as we sat outside chatting, they told me about a dead bison in Lamar Valley. They’d seen a grizzly feasting on it the day before, which immediately made me want to head that way when we were done catching up. After a few hours, I said my goodbye and drove toward Lamar.
When I got to Lamar, dozens of cars had already parked at the pullouts and numerous people had spotting scopes and cameras set on tripods. Nobody looked too enthused, but everyone was anticipating a good day of wildlife watching. In the field of green, the dead bison was visible, thanks largely to the corvids flying and feeding on it. All around it, bison fed on grass and meandered about. Newborn bison were also all around, occasionally waking up from naps to feed or run around with the energy of youth.
Then, movement was spotted on the right and the sound of a shutters was heard. Approaching the dead bison was a lone wolf, black in color. The crowded buzzed with whispers, hoping to watch it feed on the carcass a few hundred yards away. The bison that were alive had other ideas, chasing the wolf away instead of letting it feed. Dejected, the wolf continued east through the valley. Then, it stopped, cocked its head and started running full speed to the west.
Ahead of it was a pair of pronghorn, the fastest land mammal in North America. Able to run at speeds close to 60 miles an hour, there was absolutely no way the wolf was going to catch one. Everyone watching was a bit confused. Then, we saw what it was chasing.
Low to the ground a few feet behind the racing parents was a newborn pronghorn. It was literally running for its life. While adults were impossible to catch unless they were injured, newborns didn’t have the speed, skill or knowledge of how to outrun a predator. The chase was on.
The picture below was taken early on during the chase, which lasted around 10 minutes. Despite the wolf’s best efforts, the young pronghorn couldn’t be caught. Thanks in part to both the bison continually chasing the wolf and the pronghorn parents sprinting full speed in front of the wolf to distract it, the young pronghorn raced off into the distance while the wolf slowed to a trot and then a walk, tongue fully out. The entire viewing was incredible, with half the onlookers rooting for the wolf and th other half cheering on the pronghorn. In the end, the wolf wasted precious energy and the pronghorn lived another day.
Can you spot the wolf and the two pronghorn?
As always, click on the image to see it larger.
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