Wildlife, Yellowstone National Park
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.
Naturally, you came here to see the geysers, hotsprings, and wildlife. Well, keep your eyes open and it won't be long before you come across everything you imagined in this park, and perhaps more. So many people look with awe at the largest animal in the park, the buffalo. They are purely vegetarian, (so they won't eat you) but be mindful of keeping your distance, especially if there is a young buffalo about ... they will defend their young!
One of the most memorable things about Yellowstone for many visitors is the abundance of wildlife in the park. As it has been protected for over 100 years the wildlife in the area has flourished without humans as predators. You will most certainly see Bison and most likely see Elk.
The many other species range from Coyotes, Wolves, Bighorn Sheep, Bears, Moose, Beavers, Pronghorn, and many different types of birds. As common sense would suggest these animals are wild and should be treated as such. They are not to be treated as pets, many times every year people are attacked by agitated animals. So be careful around them and give them the respect that they deserve.
One of my favorites thing is too watch animals and here you can see lots of bisons and elk herds. Unfortunately some of them look skinny probably due to lack of vegetation during winter. I saw some moose and pronghorn deer but they were too far to be photograph.
Great place to watch animals. I bet it would be great to visit in spring.
Watch for Bison, Elk, Mooses, Coyotes, Bears, Eagles, etc. but heed warnings about these animals. They are not exaclty domesticated and can be dangerous to you. We saw just about all of them while we were out and about. Some of the most incredible natural wildlife I have seen in my life. Go here to find more information about the animals you will see.