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Wolf watching in our own vehicle in Lamar Valley in winter

Cape Town
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Wolf watching in our own vehicle in Lamar Valley in winter

We're from South Africa, and frequently go on self-drive safaris here (i.e. without a guide). There is a fairly good camaraderie in the South African national parks between fellow self-drivers and even tour guides to mention / point out wildlife spotted in the park - provided courteous / common sense behavior is shown.

So… we're going to Yellowstone this winter (mid-December) and we're wondering, if we want to go wildlife viewing along the Lamar Valley in our own rented car, would we have a fair chance of spotting wildlife on our own? For example, if we see other vehicles pulled over, and we pull over (in a designated area of course), would that be acceptable behavior?

I.e. Does a similar camaraderie exist in Yellowstone as in the South African national parks?

We really enjoy the freedom of spotting wildlife on our own and hope that we can have a great wildlife experience (with a fair chance of seeing wolves) in our own vehicle in Yellowstone.

Many thanks - Andre and Lexi

Mahtomedi, Minnesota
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for Glacier National Park
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1. Re: Wolf watching in our own vehicle in Lamar Valley in winter

That's how we do it. Most wolf watchers are willing to share info at the pullouts. We have met many lovely people over the years at bear jams and at wolf watching stops. Most are lay people like you and me but there are experts frequenting the area who are not as friendly and less likely to share info.

Englewood, Fl.
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2. Re: Wolf watching in our own vehicle in Lamar Valley in winter

As with any group or any place, you will find a cross section of personalities when watching wolves in Lamar Valley. Most of the regular observers, known as "wolfers", are normally happy to share both information and even the occasional peek through their scopes with interested visitors. I have done so myself on numerous occasions over the years.

There are, on occasion, individuals in Lamar who take themselves a bit too seriously, and they are not very welcoming to what they consider to be, "outsiders", or "tourists." The best way to handle them is to simply ignore them, like most of us do. You will also find that many of the so called, "experts" that gnp4me referred to above, are merely self-appointed ..."experts" as well.

If you come prepared for the Yellowstone winter, have a good set of binos, a spotting scope if possible(rentals are available), a keen eye, and patience, you should have no trouble spotting and enjoying watching the wolves in Lamar Valley on your own.

Enjoy!

Cape Town
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3. Re: Wolf watching in our own vehicle in Lamar Valley in winter

Hi gnp4me and Hawkeyell - thanks for the responses. Your advice makes sense and is what we were hoping for :) much appreciated.

Rental car - check

Binocs - check

Sense of adventure - check

Englewood, Fl.
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4. Re: Wolf watching in our own vehicle in Lamar Valley in winter

No problems Andre.

Just remember the patience part, though. When your mission is to see wolves, rather than cruising about aimlessly, wasting fuel and becoming frustrated, the best advice is to look for the groups with the spotting scopes and long lens cameras, and never be afraid to ask what might be going on. As I said earlier, most of us love to share.

The general rule of thumb is, the larger the crowd, the more "action" there is likely to be. Even those of us who do this on a regular basis however, average a lot more time searching, waiting, glassing, and hoping, than we do actually observing wolves. That part is up to the wolves. There are no fences in the park. These are truly wild animals, and the packs are free to move about as they please.

Of course we do consider all the waiting as time well spent anyway. After all, we are in Yellowstone!

Yellowstone Nat...
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5. Re: Wolf watching in our own vehicle in Lamar Valley in winter

Andre, it sounds like you should do well. The key, as you put it, is "courteous / common sense behavior." Things like keeping your voices down, closing car doors quietly and listening as well as looking will contribute to your acceptance and success. Be prepared for the COLD.

The South African parks you speak of sound pretty cool, and your experience there should serve you well. ENJOY!

Cape Town
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6. Re: Wolf watching in our own vehicle in Lamar Valley in winter

Thanks everyone for the sound advice.

Question:

Will we be ok along the Lamar Valley road in our rented SUV?

I've read some reports that snow-chains and other serious snow gear equipment is needed for the road, or is that only in extreme circumstances?

Cheers - Andre

Mahtomedi, Minnesota
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7. Re: Wolf watching in our own vehicle in Lamar Valley in winter

If the SUV has four wheel drive you will be fine. Just remember that winter weather can make for tough driving conditions. The times I have been to YNP in winter, the roads were kept in good driving conditions.

Billings, Montana
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8. Re: Wolf watching in our own vehicle in Lamar Valley in winter

The park service does an really good job on trying to keep the roads in driving conditions but the conditions can turn nasty pretty quickly and can vary dramatically from one mile to the next mile.

I was born and raised in Montana so have grown up driving on some really nasty winter roads. There have been times I've been driving on some roads in Yellowstone Park in the winter and during sudden spring storms where I have been scared to death and I've kissed the ground when I finally got to safe roads.

Deb

jackson, miss
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9. Re: Wolf watching in our own vehicle in Lamar Valley in winter

In the winter, you can usually see wolves near the Slough Creek turnout--you will have to walk a bit though the snow, but there is an overlook and the Lamar Canyon Pack can sometimes be seen there. Check for cars in the Slough Creek turnout (where there is a bathroom). I think Rick McIntyre still drives his yellow Xterrra--where he is you can see wolves.

USA
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10. Re: Wolf watching in our own vehicle in Lamar Valley in winter

As a newcomer to the park this summer, I have found the camaraderie and welcoming nature of the wolf watchers to be incredible. Plus, the members of the wolf project share knowledge, scopes and hot tips.

I look forward to Lamar this winter!