Yellowstone and the Tetons in Spring
In May of this year, I made my seventh visit to Yellowstone National Park. When I first started going to Yellowstone, I focused mostly on the geysers and the amazing landscapes. Now, I go primarily for the wildlife.
Spring is an exciting time to be in Yellowstone and view a wide variety of wildlife in the park and lots of babies.
• Bison and elk calve in late May.
• Pronghorn in early June.
• Female bears with their hibernation borne cubs come out of hibernation in April or early May in an average year.
• Bighorn sheep ewes give birth to 1-2 lambs in May or June.
The coats of these animals are not as elegant looking in Spring as they are in winter as they are still shedding, but the vast numbers of wildlife more than make up for it. Mid-May till mid-June is a great time to be in the Serengeti of North America.
You always hope to see bears and wolves when you go to Yellowstone, at least I do. Bears were in short supply for me. Saw a sow with two cubs in the area just below Tower Falls. But they were deep in the brush, hard to see and it was difficult to find the right spot to get a clear shot. Plus, the rangers were doing their job herding cats and vehicles increasing the photographic challenge. So, never did get a decent shot of mom or the cubs.
I got a peek at a wolf thanks to a thoughtful wolf watcher and his spotting scope, but no photos. A spotting scope is on my wish list, but they can easily run $2,000+. And there are a number of brands all with slightly different features on their scopes. Swarovski is the name brand, but you pay for the name to some extent. Kowa is another well regarded brand with a lower price point. Then you must decide if you want a straight or angled body along with deciding whether you want a fixed or variable eyepiece optic. My preference is an angled scope for comfort as much as anything. The 20-60 zoom range appears to be most functional and the most highly recommended among people I’ve talked to. If investing in one, I would want one with an adapter for my DSLR’s which ups the price a bit. Ah, well. We’ll see. Here are a couple of articles to help you in your decision making:
My other target species for this trip was moose and I was a little more successful there. Saw two in Yellowstone, one down in the brush while driving west from Tower Junction and another near Warm Creek in the far Northeast corner of the park. The latter was a young one with only antler buds showing.
In the Tetons, we saw a moose calf just moments after birth. What an experience seeing that newborn calf walk on shaky legs for a few feet and then collapsing as if to say look what I just did. Moose calves can walk well within hours of birth. Eventually mom passed and cleaned up the placenta to protect from predators. Her teeth severed the umbilical cord completing the birthing process. The paparazzi gradually dispersed with the excitement now nearly over.
My other wildlife experience was with a small band of Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep ewes that tended to hang out just east of the Yellowstone River Picnic Area in the Lamar Valley creating sheep jams. They were totally fearless and I had to continuously back up to keep a safe distance between us for their sake and mine. Many of the ewes were quite pregnant and the mature ewes were accompanied by young ones that appeared about a year old. They provided me with many photo ops as well as a chance to observe their behavior first hand.
The still snow-covered mountains of late May lent their beauty and majesty to the landscapes of Yellowstone and the Tetons transforming the landscape icons of both into very special scenes. The Moulton barns of the Tetons provided their usual rugged western foregrounds to the Grand Teton and her escorts along with the Chapel of the Transfiguration. Mountain meadows were covered with wildflowers providing natures foreground material to mountain scenes. And Schwabacher’s Landing and the Oxbow of the Snake River did not disappoint.
But still no brown bears. Ah well, there’s always next year as disappointed sports fans frequently lament.
Many thanks to Mark and Kim Perry of Bozeman, Montana for organizing this trip and keeping us well fed. It’s always fun to see dear, old friends.
It was time to bring our three-month road trip to an end, hitch up the trailer and head for home with thousands of photos added to our collections and many memories of family and friends from the Midwest. Including very special moments with our daughter and grandkids in Ohio.