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phalarope chicks—small shore birds found near Yellowstone Lake—are raised by the male.

the adult bison formed in behind the calves, and other adults came running in. When the calves couldn’t run any more, some bison formed a circle around them, while other adults chased off the wolves.”

Raising young takes a lot of work, says Bulin. He once watched a female coyote move her pups to a new den in response to wolves in the area. “She spent an entire afternoon carrying each of her four pups one at a time across the road, for about a mile.” That’s easily a 7- to 8-mile day. Once in a safe den, feeding a litter of pups is no easy task. “I watched a fox with four voles in its mouth, carrying them back to the den,” says Bulin. “The fox kept dropping them, and repositioning them in its mouth. When it caught another one, it just shoved it right in!”

Some parents, like grizzly bear sows, rely on sheer ferocity to protect their babies. While black bear cubs can climb trees to escape a threat, grizzlies frequent more open territory, leaving them to rely on the mother’s attack and intimidation techniques for defense. Even birds like sandhill cranes ferociously defend their young. Baron tells the story of a tenacious father sandhill who scared off a large black bear. “The sandhill ran at the bear, threw its wings up and hissed, scaring the bear up a tree. When the bear came back down, the sandhill ran down a nearby log with his wings raised like ‘Karate Kid,’ scaring the bear so much it finally ran off.” Killdeer take a more deceptive approach, like the one senior naturalist Brad Bulin observed in the Old Faithful Geyser Basin pretending its wing was broken in order to draw potential predators away from the nest.

Survival as a young animal in Yellowstone is akin to walking a tightrope.

As the young grow, play is an important part of becoming a functioning adult. Bighorn sheep lambs perform daredevil stunts on steep slopes; otter pups roll and somersault through the water; and wolf pups are busy at the den practicing dominance gestures and prey-stalking behaviors.

“It’s really fun to see how adult wolves interact with puppies,” says Baron, of watching pups spend a day with their uncle while the alpha pair hunted. “It was obvious the adult wolf just wanted to take a nap in the sunshine, but the puppies kept harassing him. They were chewing on his ears, pulling on his tail, climbing up on top of him. Suddenly he would just roll over and all the puppies would

Some species, like insects or rodents, have lots of babies at once to buffer against the inevitable losses to predators and the elements. Others, like bear and mountain lion mothers, raise small groups of young, alone. Sandhill cranes, osprey, and red fox are raised by both parents, and 4

Profile for Yellowstone Forever

Yellowstone Quarterly - Spring 2019  

Yellowstone Quarterly - Spring 2019