It's good to see that wildlife is free to roam around the park. If you are driving along the road and see many cars stopped for apparently no reason, it may be because there is a bear or buffalo wandering nearby. However, be careful when getting out to film as one never knows what a bear or buffalo is likely to do. While at the park, I stopped to see what folks were looking at - turns out it was a buffalo. So I stepped out of my car with my camcorder and started to shoot. After 15 seconds I noticed the buffalo stopped eating, and looked my way. Apparently, I did not look that appetizing as the buffalo then just went out its way. For a moment though I was ready to run away!
The top 3 animals : the bear, the wolf and the buffalo but other big mammals are all over. Let's not forget about birds (especially birds of prey), amphibian...
Bring a good pair of binocolars and your camera. When you get at the entrance or the visitor center, please pay attention to the rangers advice for a safe wildlife encounter. Bring documentation with you.
If you plan on camping (or else), do not leave food unattended as bear might visit.
Don't get me wrong, I love bears and I would have been thrilled to see one but having seen one in Alaska, it was not on the top my list. Since moving to Montana, I wanted to see a buffalo and I got one! A lonely, massive bull on a big meadows, he was watching me as I was watching him. It was quite moving.
The American bison or buffalo, as it commonly named, is the symbol of the American West. Indians relied on it for food and clothing, almost exterminated by white settlers on their way to conquer the West, these shaggy cousins of the cows are now protected. And boy, are they big!
However, in Montana, it is now permitted to hunt buffaloes who are straying outside of the park for their winter foraging. The hunting season will be limited for a month this year (and only 10 licences allowed). Next year will be a 3 month hunt starting in November with no limit of licences decided yet. It is a highly controversial decision. Those animals are so used to people they are not really affraid and not fair game.
One of the reason for the pro-hunting groups is that ranchers are affraid that, during the winter migration, buffaloes could transmit brucellosis to their cattle. It is a disease that causes cows to abort although there is no proof that a buffalo can contaminate a cow in the wild.
My take is that it makes hunters happy as it is ballyooed as the return of a "great Montana tradition"..
Pay no heed to the homely appearance, you really don't want to stay too close as these animals can run very fast!!! You really don't want to disturb one of them.
The Lamar Valley (which is located in the northeast section of the park) is the winter range for elk and bison. The road follows the Lamar River and Soda Butte Creek which provides beautiful views of the valley as well as some of the tallest mountains in the park...you may also get the opportunity to see antelope, wolves, bears, foxes and coyotes (and their prey) as this is a major wildlife area.
Even though Elk are, together with Mule deer, the animals that are easiest to spot during a stay in Yellowstone, these majestic animals will remain fascinating. Especially the males with their huge antlers.
If you spend some time in Yellowstone, the odds are that you will see some buffalos.
When you are REALLY lucky (like we were that day) you have the chance to experience something like this:
Hundreds of wild buffalos that decided to cross (wading and swimming) the Yellowstone river in the Hayden Valley. Even park rangers were amazed by the numbers of animals crossing.
Apart from the great nature, Yellowstone is also a perfect place to see some great wildlife. The best place for wildlife watching is Hayden Valley, just south of Canyon Village. If you spend the night in the park (e.g. in Canyon Village), you should simply take your car and start driving in Hayden Valley (between 7 and 9 pm). Big chance that you see Elk, Mule Deer and Buffalos (Bison). Also lots of other animals like bears, wolves, moose (moose are said to be most difficult to spot, since they are very shy) can be found in the park, but it is just a matter of being lucky.
Simply pay attention to other cars by the roadside, since there might be something to see there. "Wildlife jams" are a very common thing in Yellowstone.
This mountain road is located on the North East part of Yellowstone. I exited the park this way as this route had been described as a scenic byway. The road has many sharp curves so if you go this way make sure your tires have enough tread. The route itself was pretty cool. I drove through in August, and along the way were small lakes and several areas where snow had not melted. The pass runs into Montana. If one is traveling back east across Wyoming, there is a road that one can take to get back onto the main interstate.
Sorry about these cliches!
This photo of deer grazing was taken in the early morning (hence this is why the photo is a bit dark). It was an unplanned surprise as I was just had woke up early and decided to drive for an early breakfast. When talking recently to a ranger, it was mentioned that some wildlife, such as deer or moose, often also graze (i.e. have breakfast!) around sunrise. So set your alarm clock early if you would like to possible see some wildlife.
Another advantage of being up early is that one can avoid the crowds.
One of the coolest things about the park is the wildlife. We tend to write down the various species we come across just because there are so many in YNP. Among those we saw was bison, deer, moose, elk, one coyote (see picture), marmots, chipmunks, squirrels, pocket gophers, a snake, and birds.
Well I guess you could say they were picnicing. Elk were numerous in the Mammoth Hot Springs area including tourist area. One evening a group came down from the hills to graze on grass outside our hotel. A frisky elk started to chase another across the lawn, around a building, on the sidewalk and into the street. Luckily people and cars were not present. Always be aware of your surroundings and heed to wildlife. You never know where they will show up.
I didn't see any bears at all during this trip except for those at the Grizzly Center in W. Yellowstone.
However, I feel fortunate to have spotted a gray wolf (Canis lupus, thx mr. clay) in this grassy range along with elk resting nearby.
Wolves were hunted and the species almost disappeared. In 1996 they were re-introduced and their numbers have now increased to over 85. They are known to be in the Lamar Valley but I viewed this one somewhere around the Norris Geyser Basin.
No matter where you see wildlife you must respect them and keep at a safe distance even if they are on the paved road. Honking your horn or pushing them along with your car is not permitted and punishable by law.
One of the main reasons for my visit to Yellowstone was to view wildlife in their natural setting and up close. My first glimpse of bison herds was at Nez Perce Creek north of the Old Faithful area. Animals should never be approached as they are "wild" and potentially dangerous and they always have the right-of-way.
I was quite surprised to see a pelican in Yellowstone. I didn't expect this bird so far to the north.
This was the last that I saw of Yellowstone... after this back to the Grand Tetons National Park (my Jackson page) and further on to Utah.
I am almost out of the park. But high up in a tree we spotted a bold eagle. I don't have any good pictures of it (just a tiny black and white spot); so instead of a picture I got of the internet.
While driving along the river, we suddenly saw a bald eagle high up in a tree. We parked the car as fast as we could and walked to the side of the river. On the other side high up in the tree, there it was... a bald eagle! It was the first time in my life to see a bald eagle, and the feeling was awesome. We sat down in the grass on the riverbank and watched the bird for a very long time. I didn't want to go away, I wanted to wait until it would fly... Another bird was irritating the bald eagle, so I hoped it would get out of the tree and fly. After a long time we figured we better return to the car to continue our trip.
And then all of a sudden, the eagle started to fly.... WOW, it is such a magnificent sight to see a bird like that fly over my head... A memory never to forget!