Wildlife, Yellowstone National Park
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.
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.
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’!
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.
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).
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 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.
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.
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!).
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.