Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Wyoming's Watchable Wildlife

        Leaves rustle.  Twigs snap.  Branches sway and bend.  If you’re hiking Grand Teton National Park, these sensory alerts are tip-offs to the presence of wildlife.  

The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, which includes the Grand Tetons and surrounding national forests, is home to the greatest diversity of wildlife in the United States.  During a recent trip to the Tetons, Tim and I spotted wildlife in a variety of habitats.  
When one thinks of Wyoming wildlife, large animals such as bison, moose and grizzly bears come to mind.  However, our most cherished wildlife sighting occurred as we walked Swan Lake Trail along Coulter bay.  A golden blur dashed across the trail, then up a tree.  We stopped.  A furry creature peered around the trunk to check us out.  A Pine Marten!  This member of the weasel family is rare and elusive; it prefers old growth forests and wilderness.
        The Pine Marten was trapped to near extinction in the 1800’s; the Hudson Bay Company alone killed 180,000 of these creatures one year, all because of their luxurious pelts.  Their coats are stunningly beautiful, but how nice to see this healthy animal, intact and still wearing its own fur.

The Pine Marten is simply stunning.

         The following photos document the variety of animals we saw over three days in the Tetons.

While walking Taggart Lake Trail we practically stumbled into a deep
hole—a badger hole.  This badger was nearby, waiting for us to leave.

The cow and calf (above) and bull moose (below) are browsing
sagebrush meadows between Jackson Hole and Grand Teton
National Park.

A ground squirrel takes a moment to check us out.
As we drove by this stand of Elderberry bushes
I noticed swaying branches.  Sure enough, this black bear
was stocking up on berries for his long winter's nap.

         If you’re considering a wildlife watching excursion to northwestern Wyoming  grab a copy of Todd Wilkinson’s terrific book “Watching Yellowstone and Grand Teton Wildlife”.  The book describes the habits and habitats of different wildlife species, the best driving routes for wildlife photography, and even offers a wildlife watcher’s code of conduct.

 Autumn wildlife viewing in the Tetons is superb, but winter in Yellowstone provides an even better opportunity to get close to the animals.  See for yourself by clicking here.


  1. Rita, that is so special that you and Tim saw so many animals (and mammals at that) in such a relatively short time frame of 3 days. As much as I'm out hiking in the forest, I rarely see much other than birds, and rather common mammals such as chipmunks, rabbits, etc. I often see the droppings (scat) of a wide-variety of mammals, but not the actual animal itself. And so, I envy the fact that you saw these animals, and am even more envious that you were able to capture images of them before they scurried away.

    Also, thanks for including a link to your January 2012 posting about Winter Wildlife of Yellowstone National Park. Once I accessed this link, I then vividly recalled seeing the stunning wildlife photos that you posted in that report.


  2. Yellowstone and the Tetons are THE places to go for wildlife watching in the lower 48 states.
    It's nice that you're able to see the evidence of a variety of animals on your hikes but, as you say, it's also wonderful to be able to see the animal itself!
    And as for the talent of snapping those photos before the creatures scurry away—I have to give most of the credit to Tim. He's amazing with a telephoto lens!

  3. Like John, I know there are moose out there in my NH woods, but I've never seen one (and maybe that's a good thing?!), so it was amazing to view the photos you brought back from the Tetons. I love the Pine Marten. And I'm glad you didn't tangle with a honey badger.

    The sagebrush background to the photos of the moose gives them a frosty morning air. They look so majestic (when they're not charging you!).

    How special to see so much wildlife on your trip - and in the link to your previous post on winter in Yellowstone. I had no idea this area had such a concentration of wildlife; it makes me appreciate the thought that went into preserving this land so they could thrive.

  4. Hi Vickie,

    I've been told that moose are the most dangerous wild animals in our forests. Luckily, at this time of year they are too busy bulking up for winter to think of charging us pesky humans!

    We were indeed fortunate to see so many wild animals on this trip and you're right, it's so fortunate that Congress at one time had the foresight to protect this amazing habitat. I highly recommend The Tetons and Yellowstone for all wildlife watchers.

    Thanks for commenting!