Wildlife Update

Yellowstone Wildlife Update
June 2009 Yellowstone Wildlife Safari
My daughter, sister and mother went on a somewhat short trip to Yellowstone in June of 2009.  I had hoped that going earlier in the summer than our previous July/August trip would have some benefits when it came to viewing wildlife.  I had read that bears might be be out by the lake looking for fish and that it would be cool enough that they would not have retreated to the high backcountry.  While we didn't see any bears fishing in the lake, we did have a very good luck spotting bears.  We saw 10 bears during the 3 days we spent in the park and I couldn't have been happier.  
We spend our first day taking in the thermal features around Old Faithful and we planned the second day to  get up early and head out to the Lamar Valley.  We spotted a grizzly bear up on a hillside in the Tower area.   We were off to a great start.  
We saw lots of bison and a few pronghorn in Lamar Valley.  I tried spotting for grizzly with my binoculars as I had during our 2007 trip.  However,  since we had seen one fairly close to the road  earlier in the day I had less patience for that and we didn't spot any bears in the Lamar Valley on this trip.  When we were getting close to the Northeast entrance of the park I pulled over the look at a map.  I told my family to look for moose as we had see some fleetingly in that area during 2007.  My sister looked out the window and noticed that there was a mother and calf moose standing right nearby the pullout in a picnic area.  We spotted what I assume to be the same pair 6 miles west of there across the river adjacent to the roadway the following day.
After snapping a few pictures of the moose pair, we headed back west through the Lamar Valley towards the Petrified Tree and the Mammoth area.  While in the Lamar Valley we spotted small little animals crossing the road.  I had never seen animals like this but they turned out to be badgers.  We also saw a male big horn sheep very close the road.  We came across a few bison jams along the way which are always fun to experience. 
The Petrified Tree area can be found shortly after the junction at Tower/Roosevelt on the way the Mammoth in the Northwest corner of the park.  We were headed to the Petrified tree upon the recommendation by an employee at the Old Faithful Inn.   She said she always sees bears when she goes there.  Sure enough there was crowd of people trying to get a glimpse of a black bear mom and her cub.   This area had lots of burned out trees and logs.  Some people were not using good judgement and were getting too close to get a view.  Eventually a ranger showed up and made sure the mom and cub were able to cross the street safely.  We really enjoyed watching the bear cub follow it's mother walking through the high grass and along the many logs in the area.
Once the bears walked out of sight we headed towards Mammoth and about 10 minutes later spotted a black bear walking in the grass next to pond right by the road.  We headed down the road a bit and turned around so we could park.  Last we had seen the bear he looked as if he was heading back into the woods so I was surprised when I looked out the window towards the back of the car and saw that the bear was right there near the back of the car ready to cross the road.  Again a ranger was on hand to make sure all went well.  It was only lunch time and we had already seen four bears so far that day.  
On the way to Mammoth we saw some male elk resting near the road, one amazingly close.  There were many female and young elk walking around on a lawn in front of some buildings in Mammoth.  Some people were showing some very poor judgment getting very close to the elk, including parents with their children.  While many of my photos appear as if the wildlife are very close, it was really the zoom on the camera that enabled me to get a close-up.  Be aware that park regulations state that you must stay at least 100 yards from bears and wolves and at least 25 yards from other large animals such as bison, elk and moose. 
After having some lunch in Mammoth, we headed towards the south towards Madison.  Shortly after visiting some of the thermal features in Mammoth, we came to an area where lots of cars were pulled over.  It turned out that there was a cinnamon colored black bear resting between two trees.  A ranger was on hand to make sure visitors kept their distance.  After a bit the bear went on the move and we headed back to the car and took some photos as he walked in view of the road. 
We traveled through some very pretty areas heading towards the Madison area and then back towards the central Canyon area.  After visiting the breathtaking Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone we headed to Canyon Village for dinner.  On the way there was a clearing right near the road and many vehicles were pulled over for what we assumed was some sort of wildlife jam.  Sure enough there was a large grizzly bear walking around in the clearing.  This sighting seemed especially surprising as the Canyon area is fairly congested traffic.  That brought our bear sightings for the day up to 6 which we considered amazing.  We had also seen two moose, a big horn sheep, pronghorn, badgers, elk, and of course, bison.  Quite a succesful day. 
The next day we repeated a large portion of our route and saw the mother moose and calf again, as well as a mother black bear and two cubs near the Petrified Tree turn-off and another lone black bear fairly close to the road just past Tower Falls.  That brought the count to 10 bears in 3 days in the park.  We were very fortunate and excited.  We felt as if we were on safari.  I highly recommend a trip to this wonderful national park for the exceptional wildlife viewing, as well as all the other natural features the park has to offer.