Yellowstone Winter 2011
Yellowstone is already known to be a cold and snowy region during the winter but 2011 has seen more than average – a lot more. With climatic change occurring so rapidly what was once known as “10 year” and “100 year” episodes now happen in higher frequency. The precipitation levels were below average in parts of the country west of the Park but in Yellowstone this is definitely at least a 10 year level as to the amount of snowfall. Just 250 miles west of Yellowstone (Raft River Valley, ID) the average temperatures were above average and the precipitation fell often as rain. Try to walk off trail in Yellowstone and you will need to pick yourself up as you descend into the abyss of endless depths of snow.
While high amounts of snowfall are adverse to just about every animal, the wolf benefits from these conditions as it easily glides across the snow with it’s large feet and finds the starved and frozen prey which just can’t run away. Except for the mange aspect, wolves in the Park should be alright. Bears will have many carcasses to choose from as they awaken from their winter naps. Fox, coyote and all the other smaller carnivores should find abundant dead prey sources in the snow fields.
Lamar Valley saw such unusually high snow packs that it was quite devoid of the usual suspects. Usually, one would find abundant wildlife concentration as this valley is one of the lowest in altitude in the Park and it is where wildlife migrates to from the proximal area. Not so much this year. Paradise Valley which is outside the Park had a much higher concentration of bison, elk, deer and antelope because it is lower in elevation. Faced with either starvation or a choice to travel somewhere else where there is less snow pack is a difficult path for any animal to make. The results are life and death.