Wildlife Wonderland

My experience of wildlife watching was definitely the most enjoyable experience at Yellowstone. Seeing nature at its rawest form possible was absolutely surreal. I went on two wild life excursions. First, we hit the road at about 630 a.m. and I was hoping that we would find wolves with ease, but we struggled getting to the site on time just missing brief sightings. The wolf is my favorite animal, and just missing sightings made my patience grow thin. Once we got to Lamar Valley and we saw the alpha male 755. I was in awe; he was about 2 to 3 football field out. We also saw a grizzly, which didn’t impress me much since it was so far away.  The one experience I had with 755 made me want to go watching again, so the next morning we headed out around the same time, and sure enough we saw another wolf. This one was all black and very easy to spot. The best part about the sighting was that this wolf was testing his boundaries with the near bison. He was trying to see if he could snatch a calf, but was chased off by the mother. We watched this wolf for about an hour, and every second of it was exhilarating.

These experiences made me appreciate not only the wolves but also the environment around a great deal more than I ever did before this trip. I can’t imagine a world without Yellowstone. This park may seem big, but it is so small relative the world in its entirety. It makes me very sad that we have taken what we have from the animals in this world. I hope we can find a way to coexist in a healthier way for not only the wildlife but also us.


Wildlife Wonderland

During our week in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, we saw a wide array of wildlife, some more than others, but all appreciated in their own  way. One that struck me in particular was the injured bison standing right by the trail during our hike near Mammoth. It was quite obvious that it wasn’t going to get out of our way, so we skirted around the injured animal instead. That single event punctuated the claims I’ve heard all week, really made me think about who exactly our national parks are for.  

The owner of a business in West Yellowstone stated ” The park was made for the people, not for the animals.” I’m not so sure. I keep finding myself drawn to the words of Theodore Roosevelt. “Leave it as it is. You can not improve it. The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it. What you can do is keep it for your children, your children’s children, and for all who come after you, as one of the great sights which every American, if he can travel at all, should see.”  


This injured bison hasn't managed to get all of his winter coat off. Any number of potential problems stemming from his broken leg can hamper his ability to survive.


Healthy bison getting a snack and a drink. Note the healthier coats and the new generation with a good start on life.


The second day when we sat by Jenny Lake and sketched our view of the mountain, who birds that I cannot remember the name of came and sat in the tree within 2 feet of me, made a cheerful sound, and flew off. It wasn’t so important to me that I knew their name, but that they touched my heart in those few seconds. Just like some relationships and interactions with humans, you don’t always have to know their name in order for them to have an impact on you and remember what they did for you forever.  

A Stellar's Jay sitting close by in a tree.


Being back at Longwood for a few days now, its amazing the wide variety of species in our environment, but equally as amazing is how sneaky they all are at hiding among the dense Virginia brush. In a small way, it makes it harder to appreciate the wildlife here than in Yellowstone. When you can watch a wolf in its natural element for almost twenty minutes tracing across a field, it hard to get the full appreciation of a fox in VA when you see it for just a split second.  

Still, the Red Foxes we saw up close were breathtaking as well.


Cameron, Christina, Jeremiah, Matt  


Wildlife Wonderland

I’ve always enjoyed the outdoors, but my experience in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem has had a profound impact nonetheless. It’s one thing to sit back on your suburban porch in Virginia theorizing about the merits of having “nuisance” predators in an ecosystem and an entirely different experience to witness one engaged in it’s environment. The majesty of true “wildness” cannot be understated. Similar to the complex emotion of love, you cannot simply explain what it feels like to see the struggles contained in the unaltered wild.

There are many lessons to be learned by observing the wildlife in the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem. From the bison, we can learn to speak softly and carry a big stick. It’s almost unsettling to pass a bison on the road and know that if it came down to the bison vs your minivan, the odds are against the minivan. For being such a powerful and large animal, however, bison are incredibly docile; never had anyone in the group witnessed a bison move aggressively against a person.

The lone wolf tests the waters.

From the wolves we can learn patience and reserve. Matt and I both witnessed a rare event of a lone wolf approaching a large group of bison. After unsuccessfully testing the waters and being repeatedly driven back, the wolf eventually disappeared, chasing an elk over a hill and out of view. This is essentially a summary of the saying:

“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There’s no point in being a damn fool about it.                                                                                                        W. C. Fields

All too often one will waste time relentless pursuing an impossible or difficult path to a goal when there are other, easier methods just waiting to be tested.

Upon returning to our own humble state, I’ve begun to take greater notice of the wildlife in our own backyard. Deer that I would not have given second notice have become objects of fascination. I’ve even developed a sudden fascination with the different birds living in the area. Stopping and taking notice of the wildlife in the national parks of the west have had a lasting impact on I view wildlife not just in the “wild”, but everywhere.

Isn't it cute? (Pine Martin)

One develops a deep sense of appreciation on how we, as animals, fit into and manipulate the strings in the great ecosystem web. A desire is present to protect and preserve this wildness for future generations to not just enjoy, but to learn from, that was not there before visiting the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem. In the wilderness, especially the wildlife that give the world so much of it’s character and personality, exists a gift of vast knowledge and a puzzle on how to preserve it without influencing it.


Wildlife ‘Wonderland’

During our week adventure through Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Tetons we were unable to escape the wildlife that engulfed the area. Coming from such suburban areas in Virginia the wildlife in Wyoming and Montana that we saw was incredible. Each minute we would be pointing out elk or bison or mule deer. A few times we even needed to stop the car because there was a bison just casually walking down the street, or there would be traffic in the middle of nowhere because there was a wolf or bear that had been sited. It was spectacular to see that the wildlife was so appreciated within the community.

We spent hours on end watching for wildlife in Lamar Valley and were ecstatic to see wolves and bears even if they were a speck of color through the scope. Even when the bison, which we saw every second, stood right beside our cars we were able to witness Yellowstone’s most native animals. Even on our hike, finding shed antlers or trees with the bark rubbed bare from bison scratching their winter coat off provided us with information on their trek of life. Seeing the wildlife, up close and from far away, gave us all a touch of insight into the world we are not familiar with.

Inside the Yellowstone boundaries was a site to see, however, once you went out of Yellowstone there were people that absolutely hated the wildlife. Many wolves are hunted and many bison are killed if they reached land outside of the area. In some cases, the killing of a wolf meant the killing of an entire pack. It was surprising to see that some individuals disliked such pristine animals that can’t be seen in many more places of the world. We understand that the cattle are important to ranchers and how they could dislike the wildlife, but the wildlife is critical to our ecosystem and to our entire world.

The wildlife showed us that no matter how much people continue to invade their land they will strive to survive. We were able to witness animals in their natural setting with no human intervention. No huge supercenters popping up in the wolf’s track to his den or in the path of the grizzly venturing to the stream. This we believe, everyone should see in order to be well-rounded and grasp a better understanding of how the world continues to survive. 

“Plans to protect air and water, wilderness and wildlife are in fact plans to protect man.” ~Stewart Udall

~~ The Bison Pack! Rachel Zoetis, Katie Holloway, and Katy Settell


Wildlife “Wonderland”

"Are we looking at the moose, or is he looking at us?"

In our time visiting the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, we saw countless animals that define the word wildlife. Wildlife by definition means animals living in a natural, undomesticated state (, 2009). Before our experiences at Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park, our view of wildlife was passive and formed by the animals we have seen in zoos, our own house pets, or pictures and movies. No one in our pack could have imagined the types of animals we were fortunate to see until actually traveling to the GYE. Throughout our time in the area, we saw countless animals whose lineage goes back long before humans had ever stepped foot into the area. The most inspiring moments of the trip came in observing the animals, these members of the wild, behaving in their natural habitats. There are no zookeepers managing behavior or monitoring diet, nor owners trying to teach new tricks through the means of operant conditioning. The wildlife is surviving and it is that simple reason that thousands of people travel the GYE each year; to observe nature, uninterrupted.

"Wow, bison are really good swimmers!"

These animals have survived harsh winters, food shortages, drought, and some have even had to survive the destruction that humans have caused. We learned that the bison and wolves were nearly extinct in this part of our country, causing a great unbalance in the “circle of life” that exists in the GYE. Finally, after years of struggle the numbers of bison and wolves are returning to normal. However, there are some individuals who feel it is important to ignore the natural patterns of nature to protect their own stakes and investments surrounding this ecosystem. We recognize that we were merely visitors to these parks and that our investments are very different to that of the ranchers whose livestock are being threatened by bison and wolves. However we feel the disruption of the natural environment in which these animals are accustomed is far more detrimental to the protection of these National Parks and the well-being of the wildlife that live in them. Wildlife watching was one of our favorite activities while traveling in Wyoming and Montana; we could not imagine future generations of Americans not being able to see these beautiful and amazing animals because of unsettlement in the individuals who live in the areas surrounding these National Parks.

"Hey bear, hey!"

We have developed great appreciation for all of the animals in this area: bison, wolves, grizzly bears, black bears, elk, moose, mule deer, and birds of all kinds; they are no longer animals behind glass or pictures in a book. The wildlife is a huge part of what attracts visitors to the GYE and as a result it is every visitor’s responsibility to protect these animals. The decisions we make while in the GYE affect every living thing in the area; from bears rummaging through trash that has been improperly disposed of to hunting wolves that have never caused problems to ranchers’ livestock to driving too fast on winding roads and mistakenly running over a bull bison. Every decision makes a difference, positive or negative, and it is this lesson that can be brought back to our lives in the East. We have a responsibility to protect the lands in our communities, not only for future generations of Americans, but also for the wildlife that inhabit these areas.

"Do you think bison can jump?"

Works Cited: (2009). Wildlife. Retrieved May 27, 2011, from


Wildlife Wonderland

There are several reasons why people travel from all around the world to visit Yellowstone National Park. Whether you’re drawn to Yellowstone for its geothermal features, unmatched landscapes, or spectacular wildlife, everyone can enjoy the beauty of this national park. Visiting Yellowstone to witness the abundant wildlife is very popular to the tourists in this area.

Having been raised in various suburban neighborhoods throughout our lives, we have never had the exposure to wild animals. After having the opportunity to travel to Yellowstone and observe various wildlife in their natural habitat, we have a new-found appreciation for the well-being of the park’s creatures. Some of the first animals we encountered on the trip were elk and bison.

We never realized how abundant the elk and bison were in the park until we saw so many first-hand. The bison roam Yellowstone without a sense of boundary. You know it’s an average day in Yellowstone if bison are either walking on the side of the road or crossing in front of your car to reach the other side of the road.

The elk and bison travel to the areas in the park that grow the freshest and greenest grasses to eat. This land is home to not only elk and bison, but bears, wolves, and deer, along with humans. It is vital that we are able to coexist with Yellowstone’s wildlife and to not interrupt the natural routine of these animals. As Theodore Roosevelt stated, from Page 27 of the course portfolio, “Leave it as it is. You can not improve it. The ages have been at work on it, and only man can mar it.” We have come to understand that the most beneficial thing tourists can do for the well-being of the animals, is to respectfully leave them alone. Interfering with the animals disrupts their natural processes and puts both the animals’ and humans’ lives in jeopardy. Mike Leach told us that we usually go unnoticed to the animals when observing them; the real problems start when tourists feed or approach the animals.

One of the most profound moments we experienced at Yellowstone National Park was a black wolf approaching a herd of bison and their calves. This was a spectacular scene to witness because we were able to see the wolf and bison in their most true and natural form. The picture below depicts the relationship between predator (wolf) and prey (bison).

The wolf had been walking to the herd and must have spotted the small calves. As the wolf approached, the bison began to surround the calves to protect them. The wolf eventually chased the bison away. We think that the wolf was acting as a scout and was going to report back to the pack. Then, the pack of wolves would hunt the herd and attack when the calves became vulnerable. We found ourselves rooting for the bison because we wanted to see the calves make it out safely from this situation. However, there may have been hungry pups waiting in the wolves’ den that also needed nourishment. After witnessing such a real and natural confrontation between two species, we are better able to understand their spirits of survival.

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