Moose, goose, grizzlies, and more Yellowstone wildlife, part 3

August 17, 2023

Yellowstone National Park was my favorite of all the parks we visited during our spring RV trip through the West. Why? Because the wildlife-watching there is epic! That’s my favorite thing to do, far more than hiking, which I’m always a little nervous about in grizzly country anyway. Give me a telephoto lens and a landscape full of animals I’d never otherwise see, living in their own habitat (it’s not a zoo or preserve — this is a wild place), and I’m not sure I could ever tire of Yellowstone.

In part 1 of my Yellowstone posts from our visit in mid-May, I showed a grizzly encounter and geysers. Part 2 was all about bison: calves frolicking, cows wallowing, and herds blocking traffic. This post, part 3, covers all the other wildlife I was excited to see.

We were thrilled to spot a moose one day, as she browsed amid fallen trees and grasses. Deer were nosing around too (in the background).

Only around 200 moose live in Yellowstone, and they are big, weighing about 1,000 pounds.

Hayden Valley

We drove through scenic Hayden Valley nearly every day, coming and going to our campsite in Fishing Village.

In mid-May, it’s still snowy in Yellowstone, although daytime temperatures were comfortable in a light jacket.

Sandhill crane (thanks for the ID, Dorothy!)

Lamar Valley

The Lamar Valley in the northeast corner of the park is a favorite of wildlife watchers like myself. We got up well before dawn to reach the valley in the early morning, since the Tower Fall Road between our campsite at Fishing Bridge and the Lamar Valley doesn’t open until late May. We had to drive a loooooong way around, up to Mammoth Hot Springs and then back around, to reach the valley.

Wildlife abounds here. When you see a group of people with big lenses out, you know there’s something to see.

In this case, it was grizzly bears. One was in the willows quite far away.

It soon came closer, although we were still the recommended distance — a football field — away. I think.

It’s exciting to see a grizzly, but don’t lose your head and try to get too close.

You can identify a grizzly by the hump between its shoulders, dished-in face between eyes and snout, round ears, and sometimes a grizzled (silvery) cast to its back fur.

The bear wandered away…

…back to the willows…

…where I noticed another grizzly taking a nap!

More wildlife

We also spotted a coyote.

And Canada geese

A watchful Uinta ground squirrel

A pronghorn browsing beside the road

A shaggy mule deer

Up on a ridge, a herd of bighorn sheep grazed and kept watch, presenting their distinctive curled-horn profiles.

I wonder what they were looking at. Wolves? We hoped to see wolves but weren’t so lucky on this trip.

Black bears live in Yellowstone too, and we saw several.

This was Meadow Bear, as we dubbed it.

This blurry image is of Napping Bear, conked out under a tree below a bridge.

And this is Woods Bear.

Black bears differ from grizzlies in their straight-lined snout (no dished-in profile), taller and pointier ears, and no hump between their shoulders. They may be other colors than black, so don’t go by that alone.

They’re also smaller than grizzlies, although that can be hard to judge when seen at a distance.

One last valley view

Yellowstone Falls

On our last day we drove to see Yellowstone Falls and made short hikes to the overlooks.

This is thundering Lower Falls.

Across the chasm, I looked at this iced-in, vertiginous stair traversing a cliff, with melting-snow waterfalls plunging under it, and thought, Nope.

Finding a home on the edge

A raven dropped down on the cliff’s edge and just as quickly soared back over the canyon.

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone in all its yellow-stone splendor.

Goodbye, Yellowstone! I hope it’s not another 23 years until I see you again.

Up next: Majestic mountains and more wildlife-watching at Grand Teton National Park. For a look back at bison playing, wallowing, and blocking traffic at Yellowstone, part 2, click here.

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