West Yellowstone is home to a plethora of Native American wildlife. A home to grizzlies that pierced the flesh of trout, sinking their teeth into the skin and bones of these aquatic granddaddies, this mysterious land belonged to our ancestors and their fathers before us. Freely roaming bison grew thick winter coats, only to shed them in the summer, giving birth to blossoming calves and growing their herds. Crossing the streams with elk and moose, these animals knew their existence was to coexist, which did not always result in perfect harmony. Humankind is learning to respect these mammals, which is helping to bring them back from the brink of extinction.
Today, Yellowstone National Park is home to grizzlies and black bears, bison and most recently reintroduced wolves. It is very important that humans should never feed wild animals. While it may seem cute to reprise the role of “Bambi,” and befriend a wild animal, this hurts them. Human food harms wild animals’ digestive system in addition to making them less cautious of approaching poachers, cars or other dangers. In fact, feeding wild animals causes them to fend less for themselves, which puts them at greater risk for death. Park rangers recommend staying a minimum of 25 yards from large mammals and a minimum of 100 yards from a bear.
Other popular animals in and around Yellowstone include the pronghorn antelope, which run at speeds of up to 45 to 50 miles per hour! They generally hang out in grass areas in the North of the park, near Yellowstone River and in Lamar Valley.
A bull elk can reach up to 700 pounds and when he is in elk mating season, he will fight over female elk. Visitors need to keep their distance. Elk are generally found in the high country from midsummer through fall.
Mule deer, also known as blacktail deer, are less common than elk in the park, but are easy to distinguish by their large ears. Moose prefer the edges of streams, lakes or marshy meadows. Female (cow) moose with young ones can be extremely dangerous. Bighorn sheep live in the high country and in the late fall, they can be heard battling for rank up to one-mile away. Coyotes are found throughout the park and hunt in large packs.
Smaller mammals within the park include the yellow-bellied marmot, Unita ground squirrel and chipmunk.
Avian species are also very popular within the park. The most common bird sightings include the osprey, bald eagle and peregrine falcon. However, there are many other species of birds in Yellowstone National Park and nearby areas, such as Hebgen Lake or West Yellowstone RV parks. Other sightings include the black-billed magpie, gray jay, raven, Canadian geese, mallard ducks, trumpeter swans, white pelican and mountain bluebirds.