Yellowstone National Park has deer, elk, bison, goats and antelope, grizzly and black bear, 50 species of other animals and 311 species of birds. Some species are threatened (bald eagles, grizzly and lynx) and endangered (whooping crane and grey wolf), and we were hoping to see as many animals as possible – especially a bear.
As we entered the park we passed areas with steam rising from the ground and there across the river were two bison feeding - our first sight of these beautiful animals. We immediately stopped, grabbed our cameras and made our way as close as we dared, bearing in mind the rule of not getting too close to annoy wild animals. We were there ages snapping them as they placidly made their way to the river for a drink grazing as they went. It wasn’t until later that we realised we probably should not have walked on the ground where we did as we had to avoid all the small geysers in the ground.
Our next sight of wild animals was about 8am on our first full day in the park in the Mammoth area. We were eating breakfast outside the Visitors Centre and saw a large herd of Elk. We went to get a closer look and although they were on the grass and I walked past them on the pavement, a Ranger told me I was too close. Apparently one had charged someone the day before, so Rangers were extra watchful. All the females were lying on the grass, there were also young ones with them. Suddenly a male with large antlers appeared and started bugling, then another male was seen moving quickly away.
We saw so many Elk and Bison that day we got quite blasé about them – especially
the Elk, beautiful as they are.
Throughout our visit we saw quite a number of animals including Antelope. We even started a "jam" when we spotted a coyote and pulled over to watch. This made other people stop and there was a crowd before long. Suddenly an RV went past at speed hooting his horn and the coyote ran away, leaving everyone disgusted with this ill mannered driver.
In Lamar Valley, we came across a group of vehicles and people, including a Ranger, with spotting scopes and binoculars watching three wolves in the far distance. They were moving quickly down the valley and kept popping up above the grass. Despite being shown where they were a number of times, only one of our party was lucky enough to spot them. We did however, see one lone wolf near Norris and were thrilled.
We were also thrilled at seeing Bald Eagles, there were so many we saw them every day and stopped to watch each time. There were also beautiful Grey Jays which fed from our hands as well as the more timid Blue Jays.
Rocky Mountain Long Horn Goats (the Ranger informed us) were causing a jam on one of the passes. They were just meandering up the road without a care in the world while all the traffic slowed as people stopped to look, then they casually jumped on the wall and walked down the sheer cliff face at the other side.
Bison were everywhere, and we never got tired of seeing them. Some were on their own, one made his way slowly down the road past our vehicle with a stream of other vehicles following. There were also huge herds grazing with mothers keeping watchful eyes on their offspring. They looked so placid and we felt we could just hug them, but you have to remember they are wild animals and keep your distance!
Some people, however, are oblivious of the danger and we saw people with such long lenses so close to Elk they must have had a really good shot of the inside of its nostril – they could never have got anything else. One man was actually stalking one Elk – then people wonder why they get injured.
The main animal we wanted to see was a bear. We also wouldn’t have minded seeing a moose, but unfortunately both species were nowhere to be seen and we were quite disappointed.
Our last day in the park saw us doing the full figure of eight tour. In Hayden Valley, we came across a lot of cars at the roadside and people sitting on the grass looking through binoculars. An Elk was lying dead some distance away and ravens were feeding on it. The people were actually sitting patiently waiting for bears to come and feed. Had we had more time we would have joined the vigil, but time was getting on and we had a 90 minute journey to our accommodation after leaving the park and a long journey ahead of us the next morning.