Destinations Magazine

Yellowstone: Animal Report

By Colleen Brynn @ColleenBrynn

Surprisingly or not, I had low expectations for seeing animals before I went to Yellowstone. I knew the National Park to be a hot spot (ahem, literally) for geothermal activity, hot springs and geysers. After all, Yellowstone sits atop a super volcano. Don’t know what a super volcano is? Oh you know, it could only end the planet in one big burp at any second.

Anyway, I did not embark on this trip with thoughts of seeing animals. Upon arrival at the park, I found out that seeing critters is practically part of a checklist, people ticking metaphorical boxes of animals seen much as they would on safari.

Soon, I thought I was seeing animals everywhere. Every fallen branch was the antlers of a grazing animal. Every gray rock was the body of a wolf. Every black shadow was a crouching bear. My eyes were constantly on the prowl, mostly because I didn’t want to hit anything with my car, but also because the sightings were a thrill.

Here are the boxes I managed to tick:


American Bison



We slammed on our breaks at our first bison sighting and snapped photo after photo. It didn’t take long for us to find out that the bison are everywhere and easily the most numerous of Yellowstone animals. If you don’t see a bison on your trip to Yellowstone, you are doing something wrong. You will see lots of this:


And we were REALLY lucky to see some super cute, little light-haired babies. Squee!





Pronghorn Deer


I don’t have any good close up shots of the pronghorn deer, but I became good at spotting them. As someone who grew up with white-tailed deer frolicking in her backyard in Winnipeg, these pronghorn deer look kind of weird to me. They look like deer… just on the weird side. They seem almost like they belong on a different continent. Actually, we sighted them all along the highway several hours outside of Yellowstone.

They are also funny because they appear to like hanging out with the bison, as the ones pictured above. Just standin’.



Mountain Bluebird


I’m in no way a bird watcher, but this little guy grabbed my attention immediately, with his electric blue feathers set against the stark greyness of the geothermal wasteland. My camera was already on max zoom, so this was the best quality I could get, but his color is unarguably striking.




Elk, especially the females, look like weird deer to me, just like the pronghorn deer. However, despite my apparent want to classify everything on four legs as a type of weird deer, I can tell the species apart, I swear.



As overjoyed as I was to see these elk, nothing compared to sighting the big boys with a full set of antlers, grazing casually in the grass beside the road.







The sign of an animal sighting is multiple cars stopped and pulled over along the road. When we spotted this coyote hunting in a field and pouncing on (presumably) small rodents in the long grass, we only saw him because of the abundance of cars stopped. Saj’s #1 wish was to see a wolf in the wild, so we were hoping this was our chance. Alas, he turned out to be a coyote. While the sighting was a good one for his hilarious display of animal antics (shaking his ass and tail in the air before pouncing) – very catlike – this wasn’t the wolf we’d hoped for. Spoiler: we never did see a wolf in the wild.




Squirrels & Chipmunks

Okay, okay, I saw so, so many of these, and yes, I see lots of them at home. I can see why this isn’t an overly interesting sighting, but they are insanely cute. In a park like this, you can see them a lot closer too, watch their twitching whiskers as they observe you nervously, and flick their tails in anticipation of making a run for it.

Sadly, we saw a lot of these tiny animals smushed on the road, and I know why. Every so often, one would dart out, tail erect, legs flying, and shoot across the roadway. I find it amusing to think of animals making these decisions: I NEED TO BE OVER THERE RIGHT NOW.






I’m pretty sure these are moose. I snapped this picture quickly in a drive by on our way out of the park. It was our last day, and we had 13 hours of driving ahead of us. I was not only tired of the crowds stopping for pictures, but I wanted to get some road behind us. Upon closer examination, it appears that there is another little one tucked away in the grass. When we drove by I could see multiple brown dots like that, so was this like, the valley of the baby moose?

Then, to confirm the day as the day of the moose, we drove past her on the other side of the park:




Grizzly Bears & Wolves

Because of Saj’s great love for bears and wolves, we made a stop in at the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Centre on our way into the park each day. Even though we saw neither of these animals in the wild, it was wonderful to see them  at all, and at much closer range than we would have done out in a natural setting.





Black Bear

We actually saw a total of 5 black bears while on our trip. First, we saw 4 – a mother and her 3 cubs, and then later in Grand Teton, we saw one among some trees along the highway. Again, the only reason we saw any of this was thanks to the roadway plugged up with cars and people with selfie sticks.



The Real Animal Report: Humans


Unfortunately, I didn’t realize until much too late that the humans taking photos of the animals was almost as good if not better than the actual animal sightings. People do absolutely ridiculous shit in the name of getting a good photo.

This was an experience paralleled to the whole “hating touristy places because of the tourists even though I’m a tourist” thing. As aggravating as the crowds were, and as annoying as the traffic jams were at animal sightings, I was part of this behavior. Admittedly, I didn’t approach the animals like some idiots, but I still slowed my car to capture some photographs. Pictured above is an entire bus of tourists stopping to take pictures of the 2 elk in the clearing by the road. What looks like a peaceful nature scene on one side is polarized to the activity on the other side of the road. Note too, the park ranger in between animal and man-imal, preventing any further idiocy. I saw a park ranger called to the scene on more than one occasion. Imagine this being part of your daily job!


Honourable mention goes to the animals I saw but didn’t manage to photograph: the foxes, the wild turkey, the pheasant, all the hilarious prairie dogs, the bald eagle, the vultures, the hawks.

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