Wildlife, Yellowstone National Park

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  • Pronghorn Antelope on road to kelly
    Pronghorn Antelope on road to kelly
    by Homanded
  • Bison along Antelope Flats road
    Bison along Antelope Flats road
    by Homanded
  • Moose at Gros Ventre Campground
    Moose at Gros Ventre Campground
    by Homanded
  • Homanded's Profile Photo

    Best way to enjoy both parks

    by Homanded Written Feb 9, 2012

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    Bear checking me out along Moose Wilson Road
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    Welcome to VT.

    I've been traveling to both Yellowstone and GTNP since '92 - sometimes up to 3 times a year to photograph wildlife and enjoy the park.

    I'll answer some of your questions but would like to know how long you have to visit both parks?

    Q #1) I would def. go for September.
    Vacationers begin emptying from the park by late August and as the cold weather advances, more wildlife begins coming down from their summer wintering grounds.
    The leaves on the Aspen have begun turning a rich gold against the red of the maples. I have a picture on my Wyoming page taken late September: http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/97182/52f/.
    I also have wildlife tips.
    September/October are my favorite time in the park.

    Q #2) Regardless of where you stay, Yellowstone or Grand Teton, prices are not cheap. Also, Yellowstone books up to 1 year in advance so get your reservations in quick.
    There is no guarantee you won't get early snow in YNP as early as September btw.
    On a budget I would stick to the basic rustic cabins offered in the various main areas of the park such as Lake Lodge area, Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone area, Mammoth and finally, Old Faithful area.
    I personally enjoy GTNP for sheer beauty and scenery as well as wildlife viewing. I've always been able to photograph moose, elk, bison, bear and even wolves in the less congested areas of GTNP.
    As to where to stay in GTNP - there are a lot of choices but, within the park itself, quite expensive.
    I've usually stayed in Jackson at a small hotel or motel and driven into the park daily. The park is not all that big and with a car you can easily drive the entire loop within 3 hours or, spend the entire day focusing on each area - more on that later.
    From Jackson to the entrance of GTNP it is only about 15 mins.

    "We would like to have some animals like marmots and squirrels near our cabin" - depends on where you stay.
    I have an excellent recommendation for a place we've been using for years but pricey at approx. 1000/week but sleeps up to 8.
    We usually split it with several couples and do all our cooking, etc there.
    It is on Lower Slide Lake and we practically have the entire lake to ourselves waking up to marmots, deer, foxes, squirrels, hummingbirds and a nest of eagles who have been raising their young there for years.
    Other than that, you'll be guaranteed to see all the squirrels, chipmunks and marmots you want in the park so why is it a necessity to have them around you if you're looking for budget?

    Q #3) You will see plenty of wildlife in both parks - guaranteed. From buffalo to deer, elk, etc. it's a given especially in September.
    Hotposts I have discussed on our tips but, in a nutshell (this has proven true for me for years now and for several other people who I have recommended) -

    In Grand Teton National Park

    Pronghorn Antelopes - guaranteed in Antelopes flat road across from moose junction on way to Kelly.
    Ditto for Bison and sometimes wolves - especially behind the Teton Science School.

    Deer/Elk & sometimes Big Horn Sheep - On the road to Lower Slide Lake off of Antelopes Flat - or up the Gros Ventre.
    Elk also in the area known as "Elk Island" or the flats on the way to Jenny Lake/Jackson Lake.
    Early evening listen to the elk bugle during August/September/October and see them cross from the park into the pines for evening shelter.

    Moose: Gros Ventre Campground, Moose/Wilson Junction Jackson Lake Lodge (sometimes) and Oxbow Bend (early morning or early evening).

    Bear: Almost a guarantee, especially in September/October: Moose Wilson Road headed to Teton Village. Sometimes also at Colter Bay and on way to Signal Mountain.
    Last 2 years there has been a well known sow grizzly hanging around the Leigh Lake area or the Moran Junction area.
    Last time I was there she had a fresh elk kill and crazy tourists were trying to get a photo of her. DO NOT approach wildlife, EVER. Not even deer and especially bears, elk, moose and bison.
    September is also their rutting season so you will hear the elk bugling and perhaps the moose calling.

    YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK:

    Elk - Mammoth Hotsprings - but other places throughout the park especially Lake and Geyser region
    Bear - hit or miss but often seen in/around the Mt. Washburn area just north of Grand Canyon and Hayden Valley.
    Buffalo - Hayden Valley and Geyser regions.
    During fall sometimes can see grizzlies hunting in/around Hayden Valley. You should bring a spotting scope and good binoculars.
    Wolves - scattered throughout, more easily seen during winter.
    Deer/Moose - again scattered throughout but I don't see them as often as in GTNP

    Q #4) i would arrive and depart from Jackson airport, especially if you're visiting GTNP first.
    I usually however enjoy flying into SLC, Utah as it is a very pleasant 5 hour drive from there to the park and I personally enjoy the freedom of driving through the gorgeous scenery, seeing the quaint small towns, etc.

    I would personally try to reserve 4 days for YNP broken up in the following manner: 1 day staying in Lake Lodge area, 1 day staying in Mammoth area and 2 days staying in/around Old Faithful Geyser area.

    I would devote 7-8 days in GTNP and I can offer some hiking and itinerary suggestions if you'd like.

    I hope I have helped.
    Feel free to ask away if you need more info.

    Homer

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  • grandmaR's Profile Photo

    Elk and Birds

    by grandmaR Written Jul 29, 2011

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    Elk wading across the river
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    On our original visit in 1948, we saw bears and moose. This time we saw mostly bison. The last day as we were leaving, we saw some more bison and then there was an elk that was close enough for me to photograph. There was a sign about a trumpeter swan nesting area and sure enough there were swans

    Under construction

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  • grandmaR's Profile Photo

    Bison

    by grandmaR Updated Jul 27, 2011

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    Nursing calf - last stop
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    While over 60 different kinds of mammals live in Yellowstone, most of what we saw were the Bison. We stopped for Bison Photo Ops four different times on the day of the Ring of Fire trip

    Yellowstone is the only place in the United States where bison have lived continuously since prehistoric times. The two large herds are one of the few herds free of cattle genes.

    The bison is the largest land mammal in North America. Males (bulls) weigh up to 2,000 pounds, females (cows) weigh up to 1,000 pounds.

    A bison can run more than 30 miles per hour and also pivot quickly, so don't count on them being slow and clumsy.

    A bull’s head is wider and shaped more like a triangle than the female bison; its “forehead” fur is much thicker, as is the fur on its forelegs; and its beard is thicker. A bison’s massive hump is comprised of muscles supported by long vertebrae; this allows a bison to use its head as a snowplow in winter, swinging side to side to sweep aside the snow.

    A cow’s horns are slightly more curved and slender than a bull’s. In addition, a cow’s shoulders are narrower than its hips while a male’s shoulders are broader than its hips. If you see a calf nursing - it's probably a female.

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  • johngayton's Profile Photo

    All Creatures Great and Small

    by johngayton Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    Great...............
    1 more image

    In addition to the stunning scenery and the fascination of the various geothermals (as opposed to the fascination of my faux-silk thermals!), one of the main reasons for visiting Yellowstone is view the wildlife in their natural habitats. Every season will provide its own highlights, which is as good an excuse as any for several revisits.

    Just a little and large contrast here, but more pics to follow on travelog (AGAIN!).

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  • BLewJay's Profile Photo

    Hayden Valley

    by BLewJay Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    Located between Fishing Bridge and Canyon Village is a fantastic wildlife area called Hayden Valley. Following the Yellowstone River, it's here where the landscape changes from alpine to rolling hills and open parkland meadows (this is actually a former lakebed).

    Due to little tree growth, the shrub and grassland area attracts animals that love to graze, so you will see herds of bison, mule deer and elk. If your timing is right, you may also get a glimpse of grizzly bears, moose and coyotes.

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  • KimberlyAnn's Profile Photo

    Lamar Valley, One of My Favorite Places

    by KimberlyAnn Updated Nov 10, 2010

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    Larmar Valley, View from Behind Soda Butte
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    As someone who lives in the Yellowstone Area, and who visits at least once a year, Lamar Valley is one of my favorite places to visit. The valley is located along the most northern road in the park between Tower and the Northeast Entrance. Lamar Valley is our favorite area to explore if we are going to the park with wildlife viewing as our agenda for the day. However, unless you are going to be in the park for a number of days, or wildlife is your main objective for visiting the park, this may be too out of your way. We love packing up our spotting scope, a lunch, and driving up to the park from our hometown of Cody. Sometimes we go in through the NE Entrance of the park, and out through the East Entrance, which is the closest entrance to Cody. I find the Lamar area not only beautiful, in a stark, mountainous sort of way, but it is the area we have had the best luck in spotting some of the major wildlife in the park. You can often see elk and bison in the valley; in fact this is the main winter range for these two large animals. This is also a good area to look for wolves, coyote, pronghorn (sometimes called antelope), bears, and foxes. In the far NE portion of Lamar, in the area of Barronette Peak, look at the sheer cliffs for mountain goats and bighorn sheep. As you drive the valley, sometimes wolves or bears may be at a distance from the highway, and you may not notice them, so if you see a lot of folks out with spotting scopes, stop and find out what they are watching. There may be a wolf or bear in the distance that you missed seeing. These folks can point it out to you, and you can get a look with your own scope or binoculars, if you have them. If you don't have a scope, sometimes tourists or locals that do, will offer you a view through theirs.

    Lamar Valley is the area where the Draper Natural History Museum, one of the 5 sections of our wonderful Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, Wyoming, chooses to take people when leading wildlife viewing expeditions into Yellowstone. This outing is generally planned for May and is led by the Draper Museum's curator. It has always been a great outing, where we have seen such animals as black bears, grizzlies, wolves, bison, pronghorns, big horn sheep, elk, badgers, bald and golden eagles, peregrine falcons, osprey, sandhill cranes, and harlequin ducks, along with many other birds.

    Of course, when I say this is our favorite place, this only means we have the best luck here. Even though this is a wonderful place to see wildlife, there have been times we have driven it and seen nothing. No specific place in the park is a guarantee viewing spot. Remember, do not hold up traffic if you see something of interest, rather pull over to view the animals.

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  • Bwana_Brown's Profile Photo

    White Tailed Deer browses nearby

    by Bwana_Brown Updated Oct 10, 2010

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    White-Tailed Deer enjoying some fresh grass
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    Little did we know that while we were focused on Upper Yellowstone Falls, a White-Tailed Deer had been keeping an eye on us from a very lush little patch of land on the other side of our trail. Sue managed a nice zoom shot of the deer as well as a normal one (2nd photo) before it disappeared into the nearby trees. This is the most common type of deer in the entire United States. Meanwhile, I was playing the fool at my precarious perch on the edge of the bank as I tried to get a few clear shots of the waterfall through the trees (3rd photo).

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  • Bwana_Brown's Profile Photo

    A Bison paradise

    by Bwana_Brown Updated Oct 10, 2010

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    Impressive looking animals
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    The poor Bison have had a hard life since settlers began seriously heading into the vast wilderness areas of western United States. From an estimated population of 65 million animals in the early 1800s, the population dropped to less than 1000 animals by 1890 as hunters went crazy – even shooting them from moving trains. The destruction of this vital food supply and source of pelts and furs for native Americans was one of the main factors that drove the various tribes onto the reservations that had been set up to control them. Since then, great efforts have been made to ensure the survival of Bison. Given its size, Yellowstone NP could handle a Bison population of 2500-4500 animals but is presently at the lower end of those numbers.

    Standing six-feet tall at the shoulder, weighing up to 2000-lb and capable of running 30-mph (50-kph) these are beasts that should not be annoyed! Even so, the many large herds we saw in both Yellowstone and Grand Teton NPs seemed to be generally behaving themselves. They seem to realize that they can do whatever they want when it comes to vehicles, wandering across the highway if they feel like it or just settling down beside the road for a little rest. They just don’t realize the mayhem they are causing as practically every vehicle has to stop for a close-up photo. It was nice to see them at such close quarters as shown in these photos, but it really slowed down our progress passing through Hayden Valley in both directions on our final day in Yellowstone. Still, it was worth it to see these free-roaming animals ‘do their thing’!

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  • grandmaR's Profile Photo

    1948 Traffic Stoppers

    by grandmaR Updated Sep 11, 2010

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    Bear at the window of the car behind us in 1948
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    Now, the traffic stoppers are likely to be buffalo herds walking on the road (photo 3), or antelope or big horn sheep licking the salt on the road (photo 4).

    But in 1948, it was the bears begging for food. Bears were fed at the trash dump night at the Old Faithful Inn, and we were not allowed to camp without a tent because of the bears. And sometimes even though the bears are no longer fed for the amusement of visitors there are occasions when bears injure or kill visitors.

    Even in those days, I don't think we were supposed to feed the bears.

    Now there are warnings about

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  • DEBBBEDB's Profile Photo

    Lions and Tigers and Bears? One of three isn't bad

    by DEBBBEDB Updated Sep 11, 2010

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    Bear
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    We saw both of the kinds of bears that are in the park, but even though the black bear was a commoner animal (500–650 in the park) it was more difficult to photograph (photo 3) because when we saw them they were always someplace in the middle of the trees. We got more pictures of the grizzlies which the park estimates there are 280–610

    The Grizzly Bear is a powerful predator, capable of out sprinting a horse, and weighing as much as 350-600 pounds. Grizzlies are omnivorous, meaning they eat both meat and plants. In Yellowstone, grizzlies feed on elk, trout, bison carrion, pinenuts, grasses, roots, and berries.

    The grizzly is larger, both in girth and weight than the black bear and their coat ranges from tawny cinnamon to light brown or even black. They also have a shoulder hump and a dish shaped face. Black bears are not all black; their coats can be cinnamon, blonde, brown or black but they are smaller and have a Roman nose rather than a dished face

    The NPS has a pdf form for reporting bear sightings and it has outlines for identification of the bears.

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  • DEBBBEDB's Profile Photo

    Elk, Moose, Deer and Antelope

    by DEBBBEDB Updated Sep 11, 2010

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    Moose
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    We were very lucky to see a lot of animals while we were there. Moose particularly like to hide in willow thickets. They are really big and there are less than 500 of them.

    The other rarer animal we saw was the pronghorn antelope (photo 3 and 5) which are really speedy, but the ones we saw looked pretty seedy as they must have been shedding their winter coats. The elk we saw (photo 4) was sleeker - it did have a white rump. The elk are one of the most common of the hoofed mammals.

    The NPS has a checklist of Hoofed Mammals with Habitat and population. This includes (in order of population)

    Elk (Wapiti) - meadows, forests - population 15,000–25,000
    Mule Deer - forests, grasslands, shrub lands - population 2,300–2,500
    Bison - meadows, grasslands - population over 3,500
    Moose - riparian, forests - population less than 500
    Bighorn Sheep - cliffs, mountain slopes - population 250–275
    Pronghorn - sagebrush, grasslands - population 200–250
    Mountain Goat -alpine meadows, rocky slopes - population 175–225
    White-tailed Deer - forests, grasslands, shrub lands - only occasional visitors

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  • DEBBBEDB's Profile Photo

    BIrds

    by DEBBBEDB Written Aug 1, 2010

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    Raven
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    When I went with my grandmother, we didn't see quite as many different kinds of mammals* as my cousins but we did see some birds. We first stopped to take a picture of an eagles nest as we drove into the park. As we were taking pictures of it I heard a bird that sounded like he was squawking "Balk Balk" (which is what the spectators were shouting at the pitcher of the opposing team at my last baseball game). I took a picture of him - it was a raven. They are big black noisy birds.

    I also took a picture of a blue bird (photo 5) and as we were leaving we saw a sign about a swan nesting area, and we saw a swan.

    *There was a very stupid Australian guy playing trivia with us later on the cruise and he kept insisting that things like birds and fish were not ANIMALS. So I make the distinction - birds ARE animals. Don't overlook them.

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  • richiecdisc's Profile Photo

    The Lamar Valley

    by richiecdisc Updated Dec 12, 2009

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    lovely Lamar at sunset
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    The Lamar Valley is one of the least visited and most remote parts of the park. Located in the northeast portion of the immense Yellowstone National Park, it is on the polar opposite side of the park as its most popular sight, Old Faithful. Now, this did not seem like the case the evening and morning we drove out there. It seemed like the whole park was there looking for wolves. Well, at least everyone with an expensive telephoto lens or binoculars. This stretch of road is noted for one of the highest concentrations of grizzlies in the park as well as being home to many of its wolf packs.

    It is a gently beautiful valley and just gorgeous at sunset even if you do not see any wildlife but this is Yellowstone and chances of that are slim. While we did not see any grizzlies on our two visits, we saw what seemed like thousands of bison and a great pack of wolves chasing down a pronghorn. These were great sightings and really the highlight of Yellowstone for me. As exciting as it was to see wolves not only chase but catch and eat the pronghorn, it was equally as thrilling to see groups of bison stampeding, with the young ones obviously new to the enterprise and doing all they could to keep up.

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  • Krumel's Profile Photo

    Watching Bison

    by Krumel Written Oct 10, 2009

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    When I was in Yellowstone in August the Hayden Valley was teeming with bisons, frequently right next to or even on the road, causing regular traffic jams as cars had to wait for them to cross the road and then of course people wanting to take the opportunity of getting a close-up shot of a buffalo.

    Well, so did I, and it was fantastic to watch these woolly giants close-up and personal from the safety of the car, and even though I passed through Hayden Valley a couple of times, and always found lots of bison there, I never got bored watching them for a while before moving on again.

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  • mrclay2000's Profile Photo

    Lamar Valley

    by mrclay2000 Written Jul 4, 2009

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    bighorn ram 2 mi east of Roosevelt Lodge on US-212

    Lamar Valley is probably second to Hayden Valley in the quantity and range of its wildlife yet it's one of the less-traveled areas of the park. Here you will find black bears, pronghorn, buffalo, bighorn sheep and possibly wolves, though wolves are usually the hardest creatures to spot in Yellowstone. Because of the wildlife, there are frequent signs prohibiting parking on the road or shoulder, and pull-outs are deliberately spaced far apart. Keep your camera ready and your eyes on the Lamar River and Soda Butte Creek for sightings.

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