Outside of the thermal structures, most specifically the Old Faithful geyser, Yellowstone is known for it’s bear population. We’ve all seen vintage pictures of traffic backed up for a mile or so because a bear sow and her cubs are on the highway harassing cars in hopes of getting a tasty snack tossed their way.
Hanna Barbera developed an extremely successful cartoon based on Yogi The Bear and his faithful side kick Boo-Boo who were constantly on the look out for picnic baskets and Mr. Ranger who will not like it… The two roamed through the fictitious Jellystone Park. Coincidence? I think not.
Well…those days are now over…mostly. The park service has an entire department of bear management that keeps the bears away from people as much as possible. We rented a VRBO from one of the bear management wardens in July 2020. If bears get close to the road, or cross the road like the following photo, bear management responds immediately to keep people from stopping on the road to gawk, or god forbid attempt to approach the bear for a better photo.
The most plentiful and easiest mammal to see while in the park is Elk. They can be found at the visitor centers, and open fields everywhere. Just past the Fishing Bridge in Pelican Valley one of the kids excitedly spotted some elk running fast. Our tour guide Mike was quick to interject this wisdom: “When you see elk running fast, ask why or what they are running from.”
Earlier in the day we saw an elk doe cross the road in front of us. She had an umbilical cord and placenta hanging from her backside. Mike pointed this out and added that she had recently given birth, hidden the calf in the tall grass and was now grazing until she needs to nurse.
We soon discovered why the elk were running. A large grizzly was chasing the herd. A herd with several newborn calf’s.
Now, a grizzly bear can run 30 miles per hour. If he’s chasing you, you don’t need to be able to run 31 mph, you just need to run faster than someone else that the bear is chasing.
Adult elk can run 40 miles per hour, much faster than a bear. A calf however, not so much. The bear in question quickly caught one of the newborn calf’s and spent the next hour eating it in an open field a couple of miles from the road.
Cameras without extremely high powered zoom lenses could not take clear photos. Riane had a zoom, but not strong enough. Mike had two field scopes that zoomed in nicely on the action. The bear’s head could be seen popping up and down with a blood soaked nose. The poor calf’s legs occasionally bounced up and down as the bear rendered its carcass. Nature taking its brutal course.
The next plentiful and easily noticeable mammal in the park are the bison. Now don’t call them buffalo when around the locals or anyone familiar with these huge bovine. Buffalo are found in Africa, in North America they are bison. Grown bison are quite heavy, females around 1000 pounds and male bison up to 2000 pounds.
But…don’t let their size and ambling way fool you. Bison can run 35 miles per hour. Many idiots, also known as tourists, have been harmed trying to get a selfie with these beasts. The following pictures represent people and bison too close together.
The majority of the bison herds are in Lamar Valley where we spent much of the first day in the park. You can also see Prong Horn Elk, coyotes, wolves (from afar, way afar), and many forms of fowl in this basin. Fowl is for another post.
Beth and I were particularly pleased that the kids REALLY got excited for the wildlife portion of our tours. My mom enjoyed seeing the wildlife too. If you want to see wildlife, pick a good tour guide. This was our second trip utilizing Mike’s expertise, he does not disappoint. The following pictures represent most of the mammals that we got to see in the park on day one and day 3.
I know we have at least one photo of a marmot, but I couldn’t find one…so I stole one from Pexels!
Most of these pictures could not have happened without the guiding hand of Mike from Yellowstone Wonders. If you go to Yellowstone National Park and want to see the most wildlife possible during your stay. Hire a good guide. We highly recommend Yellowstone Wonders.