Hanging out in the Lamar Valley, Yellowstone National Park, on a spring sun warmed hillside, photographing badgers being badgers. The hillside was a good place for a badger family. Ground squirrels abound, small piles of dark brown dirt with a squirrel-sized hole mark the homes of dinner for a lot of critters, hawks, eagles, coyotes and, of course, badgers. A larger pile of dirt with a suitably sized hole, somewhat screened from view by newly greening sagebrush, marked a badger’s home. The two young were wrestling each other, using mom as a climbing gym. A little one went into the den and emerged with a dead ground squirrel, exhumed from the storage area. Burying it in the loose soil next to mom, who seemed a little annoyed, she retrieved the carcass and took it back into the den.
Looking up the valley, the river was a dazzling polished silver where the water caught the sun, burnished pewter farther along, sparkling white where the river met the rocks and boulders that slowed its headlong rush, lovely blue where the sky was reflected. The season has been dry but the valley below was bright spring green with swaths of golden-yellow dandelions. There was motion, seen out of the corner of the eye, a horizontal rushing of dust, distant, but moving quickly up the valley, followed by a smaller, but similar dust plume. A quick look through the binoculars revealed a pronghorn moving at a pretty good clip, a coyote in fast pursuit not too far behind. In general this is not a fair contest, coyotes are fast, up to maybe 43 mph for a short distance but no match for the 60 mph top speed of a pronghorn.
Brick red bison calves experiencing their first spring, stopped their carousing and watched the unlikely pair racing by. We too watched the combo as they moved up the valley from our right heading in front of our position trending off to our left. The coyote matched the pronghorn through every little course change. The pronghorn would veer a little to it’s left, the coyote followed flawlesly, same move to the right, copied again by the little prairie wolf. All seemed to be going well with what seemed a plan when the pronghorn made a very abrupt sharp turn, at the spot of that turn the coyote disappeared in an explosion of dust. The pronghorn stopped as suddenly as if somehow connected to it’s pursuer and turned to face the coyote who was now picking itself up from the ground, shaking off the dirt, getting reorganized. The pronghorn turned and began it’s race up the valley, again followed by the coyote.
Sadly the great mass of people either don’t know of these things or don’t care. For the rest of us, somewhere the chase continues, somewhere the chase is led and we are in the dust, left to wonder.
The images here are not, sadly, those of the incident described here. The coyote and pronghorn were too far out in the valley to photograph so we have included a few shots of the species involved doing other things.