Yellowstone Mountain Goats: Officially Unwelcome, Unofficially Pretty Neat

Yellowstone Mountain Goats

Mountain Goats–officially deemed an invasive, are controversial in Yellowstone–though everyone agrees they’re fun to see. You can find them near Mammoth.

Keep reading Yellowstone Mountain Goats: Officially Unwelcome, Unofficially Pretty Neat


Looking for Wolves in Yellowstone

Yellowstone Wolf Pack Map

You can see wolves in Yellowstone without a guide easily enough–but it’ll take some work and tolerance for long-distance viewing. The re-introduction of gray wolves back into the park in 1995 has changed the typical Yellowstone tourist from a bear maniac to at least a dual purpose animal watcher. Now the second most popular question for rangers is where they can see wolves.

The answer–for anyone who hasn’t seen the thousands of PBS wolf documentaries or print stories–is Lamar Valley. Visitors used to skip the road out of Roosevelt Lodge into the northeast quadrant of the park. But since wolves were brought back in 1995–over the loud objections of the farm bureau and ranchers–they’ve been a huge attraction. They’ve had a bigger impact on the ecosystem and visitors’ experience than most would have predicted. They’re still shy and there are probably less than 100 in the park, but researchers, wolf fanatics and just regular visitors can see them from the roadside.

“Honestly, we were blindsided—none of us ever thought the wolves would be visible,”  Doug Smith, wolf project leader at Yellowstone National Park, told Scott Kirkwood in a 2006 National Parks Conservation Association article. “I worked on Isle Royale National Park for 13 years and if I saw one wolf a summer, I was thrilled, but here in Yellowstone, people now expect to see wolves and a lot of them do.”

We knew to drive in Lamar Valley at dusk and dawn and to look for the people

Keep reading Looking for Wolves in Yellowstone

Stay at a Uinta Ground Squirrel Town in Yellowstone

screech of mammoth ground squirrel town

Most people go to Yellowstone hoping to see a grizzly bear, wolf or bison. But the great thing about the park is all the little bonus animals you’ll be surprised with along the way. We didn’t realize when we booked at cabin at Mammoth Hot Springs that we would be staying on a Uinta Ground Squirrel town.

Keep reading Stay at a Uinta Ground Squirrel Town in Yellowstone

Visit Prairie Dogs Just Outside Yellowstone in Montana

Prairie Dog

When you actually go out to look, these husky-sized ground squirrels aren’t so easy to find. So, if you’re an easterner headed to Montana, check out the Greycliff Prairie Dog Town a couple hours outside Yellowstone National Park.

Keep reading Visit Prairie Dogs Just Outside Yellowstone in Montana

Yellowstone Bear Attack Investigation Halts Trapping, Starts Disagreements


“Erv never would’ve walked up on a bear that he saw. This was an accidental encounter at close range,” says bear expert and Evert’s friend Chuck Neal . “He wasn’t a moron. He was a brilliant man.”

Keep reading Yellowstone Bear Attack Investigation Halts Trapping, Starts Disagreements

Who is to Blame for Fatal Yellowstone Area Grizzly Attack?


The other question is when the bear researchers left the area and if they left a sizable carcass behind. The Chicago Tribune says the researchers lured the bare to the trap with a carcass. Since grizzlies are known to protect carcasses, how did they dispose of it? The area was posted for bears. So is most of Yellowstone. The problem may be too many bear signs instead of not enough. I was there last week and nearly everywhere there was some sort of bear sign. I saw at least two grades–bear activity and area closed. But the area closed signs near Elephant Back trail were ambiguous; the trail was still open and a ranger lead a hike there. Maybe Yellowstone is becoming the park that cried bear?

Keep reading Who is to Blame for Fatal Yellowstone Area Grizzly Attack?

Yellowstone: How to See Bears

3 grizzlies

Grizzly family walks

“Where can I find a bear?” is supposedly the most common question asked of Yellowstone rangers. For decades this has been bear central. Back in the day, rangers set out garbage on bear-viewing stages. Now all food waste is sealed in steel and rangers would like to keep people far from bears–while paradoxically allowing us to enjoy the park.

The rangers want to keep people from bears not because humans are bears’ favorite snack. It’s more that bears make crowds of people do stupid things. In just a few shoulder season days I saw plenty cars stopped in the road and more than a few people chasing a grizzly down the road by foot and car. All the advice about bear spray and staying back 100 yards is forgotten when a handsome bear lumbers by.

Yellowstone has two bear species. Black bears are smaller, more docile and often have a lighter muzzle. And they’re usually black, but can come in rust to brown. Grizzlies (also called brown bears) are huge, more aggressive and have a big shoulder hump and superlong claws. So naturally, that’s the one Americans want to see. You can see black bears anywhere–or at least in 40 states, the Bear Center says. Yellowstone is one of a handful of pockets of grizzlies left in the lower 48–with the rest up on the remote Canadian border, the Grizzly Bear Outreach Project shows.

Grizzly Grins

Bears hardly ever attack people. (Though, while we

Keep reading Yellowstone: How to See Bears

Yellowstone: Bears, Otters and Wolves

otters loll  on land

Yellowstone Otters Loll on Land

Grizzly Bears Walk through Yellowstone

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

Keep reading Yellowstone: Bears, Otters and Wolves

Yellowstone Without a Guide, but with Bear Spray

yellowstone bear

Step Away from the Bear

Yellowstone has so many animals you don’t even really need to hire a guide to find them, says one expert. But you will have to put some time and work into it.

“You don’t need a guide,” says Al Nash, parks spokesman. “But you probably need to spend more than one day.” Nash says the biggest mistake wildlife watchers make in Yellowstone is not giving themselves enough time. The park is bigger than you think and the animals aren’t going to always cooperate with a tight schedule.

The animals themselves have an elaborate schedule and sometimes seasonal territories. Lamar Valley is traditionally where wolf watchers go, but their pack size and territories are in constant motion. Earlier this year National Geographic had a package on the area’s Wolf Wars and featured a map of the local packs. Based on 2008 data, the biggest was Gibbons peak in the southeast. Just last week the last of the park’s famous Druid pack that hung around Lamar was shot dead on a ranch in Montana.

“A lot of people say they saw wolves,” but really only saw coyotes, he says. The coyotes here are size XL. “The wolf is a much larger animal. Think of a German Shepherd on steroids.”

Nash says, just check with a visitor center about what’s been seen where in the last few days. Badgers, big cats and moose are all pretty hard to spot, no matter how hard you try or

Keep reading Yellowstone Without a Guide, but with Bear Spray

A Guide To Yellowstone Guides

To animal tourists, Yellowstone National Park is Mecca, with a Broadway show that also somehow includes the the U.S. Capitol. You have to go once; it’s spectacular, important, historical. But most Americans don’t ever get to go. If you do go, chances are you can’t stay as long as you’d like. So, even though it’s a wildlife wonderland, you may want to hire a guide so you don’t miss out.

Normally focuses on seeing animals close to where people live in cities and suburbs. Anybody can tell you there are a lot of bears in Alaska or Wyoming. (And too many guide books give that kind of impractical and expensive advice.) But since my husband and I are planning a trip to Yellowstone, I’m checking out all the options there and assembling a guide to the guides.

These guides are expensive. But these are the people that know Yellowstone wildlife intimately, professionally and may be able to save you from an afternoon hoping for a bear jam. If you’re only traveling with a couple people, the science centers seem ideal. The private tours are generally priced for groups of four to six, making them two to three times more expensive for couples.  I’m sure this chart will grow and I’d like to focus on each in depth.

Check out the chart of Yellowstone Guides

To see more animals go to

Keep reading A Guide To Yellowstone Guides