Yellowstone National Park
We spent two days in Yellowstone. On our first day, we drove to the Old Faithful area. We call it a volcanic wonderland. Old Faithful is the world’s best known geyser. Its eruption intervals now vary from 40 minutes to 126 minutes. Fortunately, our wait was only about 10 minutes and, of course, it was spectacular. Old Faithful and the majority of the world’s geysers are preserved here. These geysers are the main reason the park was established in 1872, as America’s first national park. Along the drive to Old Faithful, we spotted two buffalo and six female elk.
The next day, we drove to Hayden Valley. The road south to Fishing Bridge travels through this beautiful scenic valley that’s famous for wildlife. While in Hayden Valley, we were awed by the hundreds of buffalo we saw grazing on the hill, grazing along the road and by the streams with their babies. On our drive home, we stopped to watch a huge bull elk, herding his harem of 15 cows. It was awesome. In all, we counted 25 elk on the drive home. We also saw mule deer, coyote and a bald eagle.
Elk: The most abundant large animal in the park, elk population in the summer can reach 15,000 across seven different herds.
Mule Deer: Males can weigh 250 pounds and stand 40 inches at the shoulder. The males grow antlers until September and shed them in late winter or spring.
Bison: Yellowstone has the largest and most important herd of wild plains bison in the United States. Migratory wild bison are rare and their existence in modern society is considered tenuous. When they migrate seasonally too far beyond park boundaries, they compete directly with humans for occupancy of large, open spaces along river corridors. The park population fluctuates between 2,500 and 4,500.
Bald Eagle: Monitored since the 1980s, the bald eagle was removed from the federal threatened species list in 2007. Eagles near Yellowstone Lake are experiencing declines due to a reduced cutthroat trout population. Others are losing nests because trees are falling as a result of the 1988 fires. Females are larger than males, as is true with most predatory birds.
Coyote: Often mistaken for a wolf, a coyote is about one-third in size with a slighter build. It weighs as much as 30 pounds and can stand 20 inches at the shoulder. In Yellowstone, they live in family groups of up to seven animals. Also known as “song dogs,” coyotes communicate with each other by a variety of long-range vocalizations, especially during dawn and dusk.
The park’s 2.2 million acres of forests, meadows, river valleys, and lakes serve as an important sanctuary for the largest concentration of wildlife in the lower 48 states.
We didn’t just come here to see wild animals. We came to see a place where it’s still possible to see wild animals.
Next stop is Cody, Wyoming.