The grand bruin of Yellowstone always seems to find a way to survive. He might be far from beautiful, but he has an elegance that just makes you smile.
Many animal lovers and photographers I know travel to Yellowstone several times a year and have never seen bear 211.
I don’t know why I seem to have had such good luck, but in 20 visits to the park, I’ve seen him every time. What’s more remarkable, I’ve never gone looking for Scarface – he just always has a knack for finding me.
Take my 31st birthday, for example.
Like most of my birthday’s in the park, I was having terrible bear luck. We struck out in Sedge Bay and in Hayden Valley and decided to turn the day around with the otters of Trout Lake.
As we made our way up and over Dunraven pass, we were eventually forced to stop alongside Antelope Creek. The road near Tower Falls was under construction, with half hour delays, and we just missed our turn with the pilot car.
I was frustrated.
But then I noticed a few people from the line of stopped cars taking photos – though of what, I couldn’t tell.
I opened the door and looked down toward Antelope Creek and couldn’t believe my eyes.
Scarface, who I’d yet to see in 2013, had come out of nowhere and to take down an elk. And not a calf. This old bear took out a full-grown, healthy cow elk 100 yards from the road.
I should add that this road, without pull-offs, is impossible to photograph wildlife on – except when there is a construction delay and you’re forced to spend 30 minutes with an old friend.
I took shot after shot.
Scarface looking at me, suggesting with his eyes: “do you like what I got you for your Birthday?”
Scarface not wasting any time and snapping open the elk’s jaw…
…and pulling out the bear delicacy: tongue. (Who knew?)
He’d pause for a drink.
And sometimes drink and take care of the call of duty all at the same time.
And then it was back to eating.
And we both were loving every minute.
Eventually it was our turn to drive and with the rangers finally making it to the scene, I knew, rightly, that the show was over.
But with so many things having had to go exactly right for us to be in the right spot at the right time, we had Scarface devouring the carcass up close and personal for as long as anyone could ask to observe a sighting like this.
Better yet, all of the onlookers behaved and Scarface ate so quickly that, by the time the rangers arrived to undoubtedly move the carcass further away from the road, there wasn’t much left for him to bother with. So he too moved on.
Scarface always seems to appear in my life in the most serendipitous ways, but on my 31st Birthday? Well, old friend, you really out did yourself this time.