I just got back from about a week in and around Yellowstone and I’m overwhelmed. Like many wildlife watchers, for years I’ve listened to people talk up the park and its animals as a kind of Galapogos of the west. It always seemed too far, too expensive, too crowded and corny when so much wildlife is so much closer. Man, was I wrong.
Staying just four days in the park, I saw 22 species I’d never met before–and that’s not including all the weird birds I still have to look up. Without a guide, my husband David and I got to see the big ones everyone wants to see, grizzly bears and wolves. I didn’t realize that everyone is going to see so many bison and elk that it’ll soon seem like you’ve been seeing them every day for years. If those were the main courses, we also got plenty of amuse-buche, animals I never expected to be able to spot: otters, mountain goats, pushy ground squirrels, plenty of pelicans and some freaky kind of grouse that boomed in front of us. And not just fast, distant glimpses of a dark spot on a far off ridge (well, except for the wolves). We got to see them eating, playing, fighting up close.
So, no, you don’t have to have the skills of a backwoods tracker to see bears and wolves in Yellowstone. You just have to be able to spot masses of cars and big lenses by the roadside. And it doesn’t hurt to be patient and get up at 5 to catch the dusk and dawn golden hours of wildlife watching (any idiot can and will get themselves out on the road for sunset, but dawn is when it’s more quiet and fun).
Over the next few weeks I’ll be posting items on the individual species we saw and tips on how you can visit them in Yellowstone, too.
Where to Go See Animals Out West