During our week in Yellowstone National Park I took around 1,500 images. Good thing I was shooting digital instead of film. I didn’t see nor photograph all of the magnificent animals that live there but, I captured several. Even after picking and choosing just a select few of my images to include in my blog, I quickly realized that it would make sense to split Yellowstone into two posts. One for the animals and another for everything else. So, let’s take a look at some critters!
No animal represents Yellowstone more than the Bison. In the early 1900’s nearly 50 million bison roamed North America. Over hunting drove the species to near extinction. Efforts to revive and protect the bison have been successful and now there are around 150,000 in America.
The current bison population in Yellowstone is estimated to be about 4,600. These are the descendants of a tiny heard of 23 that managed to hide out and avoid mass slaughter. We’re lucky they made it.
Bison are the largest land mammal in America and can weigh a ton. This dusting of snow we saw in September is only a small preview of the weather these animals must deal with. It was a special treat to see them in the white stuff.
Most of the bison we saw were in Hayden Valley and between Norris and Madison. The areas they frequented were easy to spot because the bark was rubbed off the base of the trees.
We only got a fleeting glance of some animals like this porcupine. He was at the edge of the road and made a quick retreat into the woods before we could get a good shot. It was cool seeing him nonetheless.
Another surprise was seeing several River Otters in the Yellowstone River within Hayden Valley. They were fishing in one particular spot and would dive, surface and dive like dolphin.
It took some effort to get this shot. They were diving too quickly to aim and shoot normally. Basically, I had to pick a point in the water where I anticipated an otter might surface and click the shutter as soon as I saw one appear. It’s really satisfying when you can actually capture the image you have imagined.
We heard and saw some bald eagles. This one is a young adult. Maybe four years old. This is easy to spot by the white patch under the wing and the “dirty” white head. He sat in a tree for several minutes while we snapped away before flying off.
We spent a couple of mornings looking for wolves and met some very knowledgeable people in the process. But alas, we saw no wolves. We did, however, see some coyotes.
I knew if I carefully observed his body language that I might be able to capture him doing the “pounce”. Success! He captured breakfast and I captured him with all four feet off the ground.
Another big predator we hoped to see was a grizzly bear. We ended up seeing quite a few although most were very far away like these three cubs we found in Lamar Valley. Their mother was dining on an old carcass while they explored.
Also in Lamar Valley, this huge Grizzly was headed toward a bison carcass near a bridge. Once again my sister in law, Barb, was essential in spotting a critter and bringing him to my attention. The carcass was too hidden in the woods for me to get any closer images.
We were staying in Canyon Village and found this grizzly about a mile from our lodge. It was feeding on something in a ditch off of the road between Canyon and Norris. We were unsure if it had found a carcass or just some roots.
A big grizzly was feeding on an elk carcass on the far side of Swan Lake just south of Mammoth Hot Springs. Another smaller bear foolishly tried to get a share and was immediately chased away.
This is the smaller bear. He was running so fast to get away from the larger bear that I was only able to get a quick grab shot as he headed for the hills.
We saw some black Bear, too. This one was on the side of the road just west of Tower Roosevelt. It was almost dark when I shot this. Had to use ISO 6400. Got to love the Nikon D800 in low light!
I fell in love with the Pronghorn on our trip. We found them all over Wyoming, Montana and South Dakota. A few were seen in Minnesota and Nebraska as well. They are such an interesting animal and extremely fast as I mentioned in my Black Hills post. This male was near the gravel road between Mammoth Hot Springs and Gardiner.
A group of large male Bighorn Sheep were found in a canyon along the main park road between Gardiner and Mammoth Hot Springs. The light was pretty harsh but, we managed to get several nice images.
Our September 15th through 22nd visit was a little too early to see the Bighorn smacking heads in the rut. They were still very impressive animals to behold.
No Yellowstone visit would be complete without spotting an elk. They are majestic, beautiful and can be dangerous during the rut. A park Ranger told us that this big male was responsible for taking out three car windshields.
He’s got an attitude and shows the females he can strut his stuff. We found him and his harem just south of the spot where the Bighorn Sheep were hanging out.
Even the young ones learn to point their nose in the air and act tough.
Antlers come in handy when you have an itch.
One of the main reasons I’ve always wanted to visit Yellowstone National Park was to see the animals. It was fantastic. I’ve only posted a small fraction of the images I took but, there’s no way a simple image can communicate the feeling one gets when you’re actually viewing these creatures. It’s quite an experience.
My next blog post will cover some of the landscape and thermal features we saw in the park. Stay tuned…