Where the wild things are

YNP Bison portrait

I’ll start showing you Yellowstone National Park where we started: with some of our incredible wildlife sightings. The Lamar Valley is reputed to be the best area for this and it did not disappoint, though we saw and learned of animals everywhere in the park. For us the one animal we saw the most of were bison, some of them as close as the road we traveled on. We saw them singly, in pairs, and in herds.

YNP bison herd

At one time bison nearly disappeared from Yellowstone. By the 1880s poachers had reduced bison numbers in Yellowstone to only 40. (National Park Service rangers weren’t actively managing parks until 1916.) Management programs brought the bison back and today there are about 5,000 in the park. This small herd was split across both sides of the road. Can you see the small reddish one in the distance to the left? A ranger called this a “red dog,” one of the newest members of the herd. Young ones have that reddish hue until darker, coarse fur grows in.

YNP bison traffic jam

This was one of many wildlife traffic jams we encountered as one kind of animal or another walked either across the road or, in some cases, along with traffic.

YNP elk

Another animal we encountered soon after we arrived near Yellowstone was the local elk. We pulled into the parking lot of our first accommodations in Gardiner, Montana to find this elk cow and calf grazing on the landscaping. We saw lots of other elk throughout our trip, grazing. They’re particularly fond of the Mammoth Hot Springs Resort where there are lots of lawns and for the only time in my life I’ve had to watch my step to avoid elk droppings on the sidewalk.

Tomorrow I’ll show you other animals we visited in Yellowstone. Spoiler alert: No bears, wolves, or coyotes.

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