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The Top Ten Signs It Is Spring in Yellowstone #10 My dwarf iris are blooming in Gardiner. And the Gardiner hills are flushed with green. Green, what a lovely color! #9 The rivers are up. In the past 3 days, they've gone from a crystal clear trickle to the consistency of chocolate milk. #8 Some of the roads into the interior of YNP are open. And the Upper Terrace Drive. Go Orange Mound! #7 Potholes. Frost heaves. In the road. #6 Two nights ago, it was 65° at 8:00 pm. Today, it's 46° and raining. Yes, RAIN! #5 Robins. Bluebirds. Ruddy ducks! Ospreys. Cranes. But still waiting on the warblers. #4 Buttercups. Shooting stars. Teeny weeny ones. Phlox. And the pasque flower leaves are up. #3 The wolf watchers are on maternity watch. Pups should be happening any day. #2 Bears. Black ones. Grizzly ones. Bison calves. Lots of them. Already. And the #1 sign it's spring in Yellowstone, #1 FROGS! My beloved frogs. They are only as big as your thumb but so loud it literally hurts your ears. I sat for more than 30 minutes hunkered down on the very edge of the water between substantial piles of bison poop, looking with and without binoculars, and still never found one. NOT EVEN. I think they were literally at my feet and I still couldn't see them. But I forgive them. And I will be back. You can have a listen here. Be sure to turn up your volume.
This. Twenty years ago this morning the wolf was returned to Yellowstone National Park. I was in the right place at the right time, and thanks to an early morning phone call from Tom McNamee alerting me to a change in schedule, I was standing there when the convoy carrying the wolves (still in their crates) made the ritual entrance through the Arch. I had just returned to school at Montana State, and I made a phone call to my professors saying I was very sorry, but I won't be in class this morning. Wolves are happening. You can't see me in this image, but I am on the hill just behind the truck and trailer. There were other wolf advocates standing beside me, notably Hank Fischer and Renee Askins. I'm sure there were others, possibly Norm Bishop, but those details are lost to 20-year-old-memories. What I do remember most clearly is the emotion of the moment, how so many had worked so long for this, and I, for one, was astounded that it had actually come to pass. It was touch and go right up to the moment the wolves were released from their crates in the acclimation pens later that day.There were so many people who had a critical role in what happened that warm January morning, but Hank and Renee and Norm were three of them. As were my friends in the National Park Service, and colleagues on the board and staff of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition; there had been years and years and countless hours dedicated to bringing the wolves back to Yellowstone. By so many people who believed in their hearts that it was the right thing to do, including the politicians who ultimately made a difference. There were cheers as the truck carrying the wolves drove slowly along the entrance road. There were media. And there were children. The Gardiner school had released its students to walk the short distance from the school to stand along the route and to witness this historical moment. Knowing what I know now, that must have been an enormously controversial decision. And, yes, there were also tears. Little did we know what a huge part of our lives the wolves would become. I thought perhaps I might be able to catch a glimpse of wolves on occasion, but when over the next two years wolf watching became a regular activity, I was as astounded as I had been on the morning they actually arrived. And thrilled. Twenty years later. A lot has changed. And a lot has stayed the same. Still controversial. Their well-being still being constantly challenged. Still much emotion being displayed on both sides. And, every glimpse across the sage of the Lamar Valley or Swan Lake Flats, or anywhere at all, still thrilling. How lucky I am to be able to say, I was there. I remember the day the wolf returned to Yellowstone. (Photo credit, the National Park Service and Diane Papineau)