Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Snow up to...wow!

Everybody knows I love watching Yellowstone Web cams. Here's a favorite, mounted on Lake Butte, high above Yellowstone Lake, by the University of Utah's Yellowstone Volcano Observatory (funded by the US Geological Survey). The "capture" of the elk (the rest of her herd was there too) dates from July of 2010; the little critter on top of the snow, which is apparently deeper than the elk is tall, dates from mid-March of 2011. It's a little ermine, or a long-tailed weasel, in winter white -- what wonderful happenstance he ran in front of the camera to be recorded for posterity. After nearly 20 years of drought, Yellowstone had a most wonderfully snowy winter in 2010-11. Let's hope it marks the beginning of a return to normal moisture levels -- or if not "normal" whatever that is, then wetness at the high end of average. If all the snow melts gradually, it will seep into the soils and keep the trees, forbs and grasses hydrated throughout fire season, providing abundant forage for Yellowstone's hooved herds -- bison, elk, mule deer, moose, and pronghorn antelope -- so they can fatten up and better withstand the next winter of deep, long snows.

The "volcano" cam image is refreshed once hourly for public enjoyment on the Web, but for research on changes in the profile of the land it updates continuously. The sweet sleek elk cow and her herd (unlike the ermine) apparently noticed the camera and one of them decided to investigate. Here's the footage, posted by the USGS, titled, Elk Licked My Webcam. Hilarious!

(Even better with your sound turned on.)


  1. What a beautiful picture of the ermine in its natural setting. Good for those elk to have noticed the camera! The thing that struck me about that video is how quiet everything was other than the elk noises.

  2. It was early in the morning, and Lake Butte is high above the road, so all you can hear is the elk snorting and sniffing with curiosity.

  3. The ermine is beautiful!
    And I laughed at all the huffing and puffing of the animals around the webcam!

  4. Web cams in the wild are such a great idea. As for the heavy snows this winter, a wet winter in socal means higher risk of fires come the dry season. It's a mixed blessing.

  5. Good news about the snow. Time for me to return return to Montana and YNP.