7 Animals of Yellowstone National Park
Updated: Nov 8, 2022
7 Animals To Look For On Your Next Visit To Yellowstone National Park!
Bison (American Buffalo), Yellowstone NP, Photo Credit: Mike Carmo
Yellowstone National Park.
When you hear someone say that, what comes to mind?
The amazing colors of the hydrothermal features. Bison roaming freely in the meadows...or completely blocking traffic as they walk down the road. Bear cubs running around playing while momma watches with a careful eye. Wolves howling in a morning mist, the steam visible from their mouths. Geysers shooting high into the sky. Foxes bounding through the landscape hunting their next meal. Hiking some of the best trails in our great country. Camping under the pitch black sky with millions of stars visible like fireflies. The vast canyons, waterfalls, rock formations, and other archeological wonders one can explore and photograph.
Yellowstone encompasses over 2.2 MILLION (yep, 6 zeros!) acres of protected land in the northern section of the US. It has the largest concentrate of mammals in one area than anywhere in the continental states, not forgetting about the fish, birds, and amphibians!
Grizzly Bear, Yellowstone NP, Photo Credit: Mike Carmo
Grizzly Bears can conjour up two completely different visuals for people. One could be of Yogi Bear, the cartoon grizzly from the 1960s. Cute, friendly, ornery, and always hungry and up to no good. The other involves a bear attack scene from an Oscar-winning actor, climbing into it's carcass, and just a whole bunch more gruesome and horrific details I don't have the stomach to type. For all intents and purposes, and for the sake of all my readers, lets think of Mr Grizzly Bear as more of the Yogi Bear type...doesn't this photo look like he is about to ask Ranger Smith what is the matter?
Unlike their cousins the black bear, the grizzly (commonly referred to as the brown bear in other parts of the continent) is larger, stronger, and more aggressive. In fact, a grizzly can be 2x the size of a black bear! The grizzly is listed as a Threatened Species on the Endangered Species Act since 1975. They are found in the Hayden and Lamar Valley regions of the park. Lamar is where our beloved photographer, Mike Carmo, was able to get this shot of Mr Grizzly.
Black Bear Sow and Cinnamon Cub is available for purchase! Find it in our online store, under the main menu
Have you read my past blogs? Do you know by now how much our photographer Mike loves these Yellowstone black bears? How can you blame him!! You should hear him at gatherings, everyone wants to hear his stories about the bears!
Unlike the grizzly, the Yellowstone black bears are easier to find as long as you know where and when to look for them. Compared to the estimated 700 grizzlies in the park, black bears are so common they cannot be counted. That makes the likelihood of seeing these cuddly (not really though) and cute bundles of fur pretty high. Mike has recommended that Lamar Valley is the best place to get a chance of seeing the bears.
Are you confused about a black momma bear with a cinnamon bear cub? "Black Bear" can mean any bear of black, brown, blonde, or cinnamon in color. I know, thats slightly deceiving! This momma bear had a cinnamon and a black bear cub from the same litter!
To read more about our photographer's adventures in Yellowstone with the black bears, check out the past blog posts! Make sure you subscribe so you don't miss another super fun and informative moment!
Coyote, Yellowstone NP, Photo Credit: Mike Carmo
Dudes. Those eyes. Have you ever seen anything so absolutely enchanting. I'm sitting here typing and just staring into his eyes and its almost as if this coyote was in front of me.
No matter how you pronounce it, kEYE-ote or kie-oh-TEE, you'll definitely agree that these wild creatures are pretty dang cool to look at. Unlike the wolves in Yellowstone, the Coyote is only a third of the size, weighing in around 25-30lbs. They resemble a medium sized dog! The small stature of this wild creature allows them to quietly and quickly navigate the park hunting for food. With a population of around 100 for wolves in Yellowstone, an abundant population of coyotes means you're more likely to see these sandy colored guys than the ever elusive and monstrous big brother wolves.
Coyotes are important to the ecosystem of our great country; They help control the populations of small rodents allowing for the vegetation those mammals feed on to thrive, also keeping down disease and overpopulation. This "prairie wolf" was captured on camera in the Lamar Valley. If I were you, I would make this location pretty high on the bucket list of places to check out in Yellowstone!
Ruddy Duck, Yellowstone, Photo Credit: Mike Carmo
The Ruddy Duck is a peculiar little fella. Short in stature, thick short neck, big old head with a baby blue beak (technically, only the males get the blue bills during mating season...guess the lady ducks dig that blue beak!). These migratory birds are pretty common in the marshes and muddy waters of Yellowstone. Your best chances of spying one of these guys is mid spring through mid fall.
Young Moose, Yellowstone, Photo Credit: Mike Carmo
Full Disclosure: it is easier to find a moose in Grand Tetons NP than it is in Yellowstone. HOWEVER, this is a Yellowstone post, this photo was taken there, and I want to write about moose because they are cool! So dangit....here we go!
Moose!! This little dude right here is a young bull moose. How do I know that? Well, firstly and easily enough, only males get antlers. Man, am I smart haha! Secondly, his antlers are a little stubby. Just like their cousins, the deer, a moose's antlers will grow bigger and bigger as they age. And thirdly, he was a pretty small (for moose standards) male moose.
Interestingly enough, most times a young bull will not shed his antlers the first winter! Grown males will shed every winter, typically in January, and regrow the next year, bigger and badder. As the new antlers grow in they are covered by a fuzzy skin known as "Velvet". Again, just like deer, the moose will rub off the velvet onto trees, bushes, basically anything it can.
Moose are, and should be, viewed from a long distance, admired, but also feared. In Yellowstone they always talk about how to keep 25 yards away from moose, elk, deer, and bighorn sheep, 100 yards away from bears. Moose are known to be violent, especially the momma moosies. Also important to say, if your car goes up against a moose....it isnt gonna win.
Pronghorn, Yellowstone, Photo Credit: Mike Carmo
Not going to lie, before my dad got into wildlife photography and started sending our family group text all his favorite shots as he got them, I never knew a Pronghorn existed. If I had seen this on the web or facebook my first thought would be, aww look a cute antelope! But did you know there are ZERO antelopes in North America? What the heck, man! The song lied to us!
"Home, home on the range...where the deer and the PRONGHORN play!" Nope. Not as catchy.
The Pronghorn actually evolved in North America over the past 20 MILLION years. When Lewis and Clark made their expedition, they charted the lands, the waterways, and all the creatures they came about. They were familiar with an antelope, which live in Asia and Africa, and they do appear very similar, so thus the american antelope was coined.
If you want to catch these super cool non-antelopes, in the summer head over to the Lamar Valley (see? you definitely need to go there) or in the winter, between Northgate and Reese Creek. Look for them in the grasslands. Love seeing baby animals? Fawns are born in late May and June! Another interesting (at least to me) fact, they have horns not antlers, BUT they shed them every year and regrow.
Note: always check the NP websites for up-to-date road closures and parts of the park that are not open.
Bison, Yellowstone, Photo Credit: Mike Carmo
There. Are. No. Buffalo. In. America. Ha. True story. Early American settlers found the appearance of the bison similar to that of the water buffalo and cape buffalo...thus they called them the American Buffalo. In the 1600's, french fur trappers called these ungulates (hooved mammals), boeufs, the term they used for oxen. In 1774, however, the name of this breed was offically changed to bison.
Bison are not calm, roaming, little prairie puppies. They are largely unpredictable in their behavior, accounting for 3x the number of injuries to visitors of Yellowstone. Yes...people actually try to pet wild bison. Please don't attempt that. I promise you it will not end well.
During the 1800s, the bison went through an extreme extermination, so much so that they were thought to have been ecologically extinct. However, there was a tiny (24 to be exact) little herd that had gone untouched that was hiding up in Yellowstone. Though the numbers of the American Bison have been saved, most are not free-roaming herds. The herd in Yellowstone is the last remaining direct lineage to the pre-historic bison.
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