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Posted by Granite Head ( on 07:04:40 05/06/17

In Reply to: Wildlife viewing in Yellowstone posted by Sally

For wildlife-watching, late May-early June are the best as the baby animals will be most visible then. In terms of weather, that late May-early June period *usually* affords better weather too, though you should still expect to dress in layers. The scenery is substantially greener, hiking trails are less likely to be blocked by, or gushy from, snow, and there will be more babies than earlier in May. For example, around now one is just starting to see more and more baby bison (called "red dogs"), and I've seen a couple of black bear cubs this month too. But elk and pronghorn hide their babies in the brush until they're able to run from danger, so although their birthing starts in late May, you don't see them as often as you do in the first part of June when they're up and following mom around. Bighorn lambs can be seen by then as well. Wolf and coyote pups should be out of their dens in a few weeks, but sighting them is much more a matter of luck than the hoofed animals - watch for crowds set up at pullouts with spotting scopes, almost always for a bear or wolves - and people will gladly share what they're looking at if asked politely :-)

You are right that June-September is very crowded, and the never-ending summer road construction projects cause even more congestion because of the increased traffic. It can also get hot during the day, and more animals disappear into cool hollows and shady day-beds accordingly, so best wildlife viewing is early in the morning and in the evening when they day cools off.

Although mid-late September can be spectacularly beautiful in the park, August-early September are frequently impacted by wildfire smoke blown in from around the region, and of course, some years, from fires within the park.

Planning WAY ahead is a very good idea. On May 1 every year Xanterra, the in-park lodging concession, opens reservations for the following summer (May 1, 2017 = summer 2018 cabins, hotel rooms, and some campsites). If you want accommodations in the park - which I recommend because there's nothing like opening your cabin door and having a bison standing right there ;-) - explore the Xanterra reservations website ASAP. You'll have the best luck if your dates are flexible. Depending on how long you'll be there, I also suggest staying in two places to give you a feel of what it's like in different parts of the park. Old Faithful will be convenient for exploring the thermal areas, and Lake, Canyon, or Roosevelt will make for an easy commute to the features on the east side. Mammoth is also good for the northern tiers especially. Your deposit can be refunded up to a certain number of days before your visit. Otherwise, look in West Yellowstone and/or Gardiner. Both towns are also feeling the pressure of increased visitation, so book early. (When we stay in West we get a VRBO condo that is extremely convenient. If you decide to go that route let me know and I'll give you the specifics).

Let us know if there's anything else we can help with!

Pronghorn doe and fawn, Slough Creek Road, June 18.

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