Wildlife, Yellowstone National Park
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.
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.
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.
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.
Watch for wildlife anywhere in the park, especially at dawn and dusk when they are most active. Bears are generally regarded as the crown sighting at Yellowstone (as elsewhere) and are typically found in the open but often in wooded areas, generally feasting on plants. Park regulations urge you to stay 100 yards away from bears. If your movements alter the animal's movements, you're too close. Though they appear slow because they are methodical, bears are quick as cats, and at less than 100 yards could be at your limbs faster than you think.
One of the wonderful aspects of coming to the western national parks is seeing the wildlife. At Yellowstone, we saw the bison as we were driving in. You really get some idea of how massive they are when you see the head of one right next to the driver's window (photo 2) One of the neat things about coming in the spring is that we could see the buffalo calves (photo 4)
The American animal known as a "Buffalo" is not closely related to either of the two "true buffaloes", the Asian buffalo (or "water buffalo") and the African buffalo. However, "bison" is a Greek word meaning ox-like animal, while "buffalo" originated with the French fur trappers who called these massive beasts boeufs, meaning ox or bullock. So both names, "bison" and "buffalo," have a similar meaning and they are used interchangably by most people.
Originally there were huge herds of bison, but due to extensive slaughter which was originally done to obtain the hides, the herds were decimated from approximately 70 million individuals to just 1000 at the turn of the century. The herds of Yellowstone survived due to the rugged and remote terrain.
A bison has a shaggy, dark brown winter coat which in the spring looks kind of moth-eaten as they shed to the lighter weight, lighter brown summer coat. Bison can reach up over 6 ft tall, and weigh up to 2,205 lb. Both sexes have short, curved horns. The URL shows a buffalo galloping.
One of the sights everyone hopes for when they visit Yellowstone, and that is rarely a problem. Whenever you see a bunch of cars stopped alongside (or even ON) the road, that's a pretty good indication that people are watching wildlife. Plenty of people do very dumb things, however, and get entirely too close to bison, elk, etc. Don't. Period. Just don't.
Elk are the most plentiful large animal in Yellowstone with some 30,000 in the summer and 15 to 20,000 in the winter. Adult bull elk weigh about 700 pounds with large antlers having 6-8 points per side; cows weigh around 500 pounds. While elk inhabit the the entire park in the summer, the winter weather is harsh in the south, so elk move to the lower elevations in the park's north or out of the park.
We saw perhaps 30 or 40 elk in Yellowstone. There were several individual bulls and cows just north of Old Faithful, and near Gardiner, MT, we saw a couple of nice herds, each with another 15 or 20 animals.
From 1910 to 1930 wolves were eliminated from Yellowstone; coyotes were also target, but they were able to survive. For years coyotes were the largest predator in the park, but with the reintroduction of the wolf in the 1990s, coyotes not only have competitors for food, but wolves actually kill a handful of coyotes each year. In Yellowstone coyotes are most common around the Madison, Firehole and Gibbon rivers.
During our visit to Yellowstone in Oct 2008 we saw a coyote nearby the road. He seemed to want to cross, but there were many people in his path, so he sat and patiently waited until some of the cars left, then he hopped up and over the road, and back down the other side. He pursued a crow for a few minutes, but seemed to decide the healthy bird was too much trouble, so the coyote moved off to the west.
Yellowstone has about 4,000 free ranging bison, just a tiny fraction of the 150,000 bison on private and public lands across the US. Buffalo have lived in Yellowstone for centuries, but in 1902 the herd was reduced to just 23 animals due to over-hunting and poaching. That same year another 21 bison were brought in from private ranches to help sustain the herd, which then slowly grew throughout the century.
There were park rangers standing off to the side of the elk that were laying around Fort Yellowstone. They were keeping an eye on the tourists and apparently the elk that were around this area. Listen carefully and you will hear the elk's call. You can't miss it!
when going through back country trails,you should always whistle and/or clap so that bears know you are coming.if a bear follows you,he is just seeing what you will do and if you run away,there is a 95% chance that he will attack and kill you (bears run about up to 30 miles per hour) so dont run away! also,if a bear charges at you,roll up in a ball on the ground,and try to pull out some bear or pepper spray,and spray in the bears eyes.(you NEED to have bear spray while going to yellowstone NO MATTER WHAT.you also need it if your going to a place with bears roaming around free.) another tip:bears go and try to attack the smaller person or animal before the larger ones.
When we left Great Fountain Geyser, we drove up toward West Yellowstone.
Frequent sightings of Elk are usually the first wildlife to see. We also waited for some bison to move on off the road. When we were crawling around a curve of rock, two deer bounded out in front of us. We stopped to let them cross, and noticed several more, including very young deer coming down the rocky slope to cross over the road. We only had one time that we thought we might see a moose - it was hidden in a grove of trees, and never did come out.
The longer you stay here the greater your chance of seeing wildlife.
In Yellowstones, we found out for the first time the excitement in close encounter with a black bear. While cruising on the park road, we saw 6 to 7 cars parked on the side of the road. Experience gain from past few days told us that there must be some kind of wildlife viewing going on. We immediately parked the car and rushed toward the crowd standing by the river side. Following the direction where everyone was pointing, we saw a black bear in the water just 50 feet away. It looked like it was having a lot of fun playing with white water, letting the current take its chubby body down the stream. At around 100 feet away, this black bear called it quit and came up to the shoreline, strolling leisurely toward the congregation. Everyone rejoiced. Those with telescopic cameras started shooting furociously, retreating with their cannon like equiptment every few steps the black bear advanced. Finally, someone exclaimed "time to get in the car, it is coming too close!" I started sprinting towards the car, but Andy would not move. The black bear got within 2 feet distance of him, these two exchanged look before the black bear moved on. While that was going on, I fumbled with my camera, trying to insert a new memory card since the old one was all used up. Still, no picture recorded :(
They roam everywhere. From the Madison River Valley, Hayden Valley, to the Northeast Entrance. You'll see buffalo regardless of where you roam. Since the fire of 1987, the forest openings have allowed for the buffalo to spread out and to populate the entire park.