4. Wild Animals
Wild animal sightings in Yellowstone generate rubbernecking and lead visitors to stop their cars in the middle of the road or along shoulders to catch a glimpse. Nature photographers set up top-of-the-line tripods, cameras, lenses and scopes, turning the sightings into social events.
In our first few minutes in the park, as we were driving through the southeast corner, we spotted such a gathering and stopped to see the cause of the commotion. Two elks were about 100 feet from the road. To see the park’s other famed large wild mammals, we drove to its valleys.
The best place for viewing wildlife is Lamar Valley in the northeast corner of the park. We spotted several pronghorn deer — antelope with short horns and white underbellies — 200 to 300 yards off the road. Then we ran into several herds of buffalo who were either crossing the road or laying within 100 feet of it. On our way back, we saw what we believe is an coyote, an animal that rarely appears, standing about twenty yards from the road.
Hayden Valley is the second best place in the park to spot wildlife, especially buffaloes. Generally, they are still — standing, lying, or inching along during a stroll. But we had the good fortune to see them running and swimming one day, as several queued up to cross a stream. The males are massive. With shoulders six feet off the ground, and weighing up to a ton, they are the size of a small car on stilts.