Yellowstone National Park, WY – Big Game Animals

Herd of elk in front of the visitors center.

What a rack.  A local hunter standing nearby told us he was

at Yellowstone to size up his prey for when they migrate out

of the park into the legal hunting areas.

Morning flirtations

Buffalo use the roads for travel too.

Yellowstone National Park - Animals

September 6-10, 2007 - One of the most exciting

things in Yellowstone is seeing the big game

animals up close.  Our first morning in the park,

after driving down from Glacier NP, we took a short

hike from the campground to the visitors center.  As

we climbed up the hillside through the forest we

looked up -- and saw a buffalo on the ridge above

us.  I stopped dead in my tracks, remembering the

sign I'd seen at the campground, "More people are

gored by buffalo each year than are attacked by

bears."  Yikes.  There had been another sign

explaining what to do in case you encountered a buffalo or bear in the park.  I wracked my brain trying to remember the

instructions, as each animal required something different.  Do you make noise, or not?  Back up slowly or run for your life?  Be

aggressive or passive?  The buffalo snorted at us.  Mark reached for his camera but I was frozen to the spot.  Suddenly the

mammoth, ungainly beast leaped away.  He moved across the impossibly steep and rocky terrain with the grace and agility of a

dancer.  In an instant he was gone.  We gaped at each other, wide-eyed.  What a way to be welcomed to Yellowstone National


When we arrived at the visitors center we found it was occupied by

a herd of elk.  It was elk mating season and they like to congregate

at the visitors center.  They wandered up and down the grassy

areas as if they owned the place while the rangers waved the cars

through and tried to control the exuberant park visitors.

A huge male was seated motionless in the middle of the grass

with his harem of females surrounding him at a distance.  He

barely moved a muscle as he sat in the sun.  We watched him,

willing him to turn to face us.  He wouldn't move, despite the

crowd of onlookers snapping his photo.  Almost imperceptably he

moved his head slightly.  This seemed an indication that he might

stand up and the rangers leapt into action, waving everyone

away from the grass to give the big guy room.  "These are wild

animals," they explained to us.  "They are unpredictable."  That proved true, as the enormous elk must have decided he didn't

need to stand up afterall, and he stayed seated in the sun for another few hours.

One morning we woke up to see a young buck elk flirting with a

young female right outside our trailer window.  We grabbed the

cameras and started shooting right through the window.  They

touched noses and then reared up on their hind feet, pawing at

each other.

They did this for about 10 minutes, pausing to nibble the bushes

every now and then between flirtations.  When the young male

leaned over to munch on a leaf we could see that his antlers were

soft and fuzzy.

Out on the park roads it

was common to see elk

and bison roaming

around.  The animals

use the park roads in the

winter because it is

easier to walk through

the snow there.  So they

do own the roads

afterall, and they

continue walking along

them in the summertime

too.  After a while we got

used to seeing the huge

buffalos.  They didn't get

any prettier, but from the

safety of the car they

seemed a little less


The tamed wild animals

are just one of the many

marvels at Yellowstone.

We were intrigued by the

steaming and gurgling of

the hot springs and

geysers as well.