Yellowstone Wildlife

Last week I went to Yellowstone National Park with my family. Besides a few souvenir magnets I came back with 2443 pictures/videos from the trip (only 399 were ones I took) to sort through. I’ll start with the best of the wildlife pictures.

Trip Overview

We started our trip with a night spent in Jackson and a day trip through Grand Teton National Park. It was raining on and off (and the clouds mostly hid the mountains the entire time we were there), but there was a traffic jam due to a black bear eating something from the bushes off the side of the road. I walked forward to see why traffic was stopped and got a couple pictures and a short video of the bear just as the park ranger showed up to tell us that we were way too close to that bear and should get back in our cars and get moving.

We stopped at the entrance to Yellowstone to take a picture with the sign. The parking area overlooked a stream that contained several ducks and a trumpeter swan. I think this was the only swan we saw:

On the way into Yellowstone we had our first elk sighting across a meadow. We stopped the car at the first pullout and walked back at least a quarter of a mile to a good viewing point. We got to listen to the elk bugle and saw an elk with an impressive set of antlers, but the sun had gone down and the lighting wasn’t great for taking pictures. When we gave up on the lighting and walked back to the car we got there just in time to see an elk munching on the grass maybe twenty feet from the car. While we watched it looked down the road then strolled out in front of a tour bus, watched all traffic stop, then went on its way.
Headlight-lit Elk

On the way from where we sighted the elk through the park to the west exit (we spent three nights outside the west side of the park) we were stopped suddenly due to a solitary bison crossing the road (based on barely-visible dark lumps it was rejoining the herd). Unfortunately no pictures were taken at that time. The next bison sighting was on the way into the park the next morning. Traffic was backed up for quite a ways due to this single bison in the field by the road:
Lone Bison

That afternoon we headed up to the town of Mammoth for food and to stop at the visitor center and found out they have a whole herd of elk that have discovered just how tasty the grass that they mow is. The rangers were out to keep people back to prevent direct interaction with the wild creatures but we got a bunch of pictures:

After wandering the town and nearby hot springs it had started to snow but was still light enough we detoured to see Old Faithful before leaving the park for the night. On the way south to get there we saw another lone bison, this one out in the cold getting snowed on, and a small herd of bison obstructing the road. Bison make grunting noises: we got to listen to them while we took pictures and waited for a chance to drive past.
Snow BisonRoad Bison

The next day was again rainy, so we cheated a bit to check off a few more animals from our list: we visited the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center in West Yellowstone. Naturally, they have a number of grizzly bears and wolves to watch. Highlights of the visit included:

  • There were a bunch of ravens around trying to steal food from the animal enclosures. One of the wolves got annoyed and caught/killed one. All the ravens gathered around the top of that area to make loud noise in anger. It carried the dead bird around a bit and eventually started eating it.
    Wolf with Raven
  • One of the wolf packs was fed while we were there. Feeding consisted of live trout dumped in the stream in the enclosure (while the wolves were in a separate pen) and the wolves had to catch the trout. It didn’t take them long to scoop the fish out and leave them on the grass to die (I guess chewing on a fish that’s still flopping about is more challenging).
    Wolf with Fish
  • A bear-resistant trash can was put in the bear enclosure (with dog food in it as bait). One of the bears spent probably half an hour working on it without completely getting it open. The trash can was dented and had a hole/tear where it was chewed on before the bear went to look for easier food. That was generation 2 of that design, generation 1 was on display in the failed designs area: apparently a bear got claws under the edge of the lid of the original and just ripped it off entirely including the hinges.

We spent the afternoon in the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone area and didn’t see any more notable animals. The next morning, however, we had a couple pronghorn wander through the yard of the cabin we were staying at.

We spent the day wandering through the geyser basins on the way to the Old Faithful area. One stretch of road had a whole herd of bison clustered around it, but otherwise we didn’t take much time for the animals that day.
Sunny Bison

Animal Photo Albums

Since I have a bunch of good pictures of some of the animals here are collections by animal:



Grizzly Bears