Wildlife sightings happen in Cody Yellowstone, sometimes when you’re least expecting them. And those are the wildlife moments I will always remember best.
In all my years of living in Cody, I’ve seen plenty of critters.
I’ve seen eagles galore, bison aplenty, bears occasionally, moose when I’m lucky, bighorn sheep and elk frequently and pronghorn almost daily. I’ve spotted wolves in every season, and I’ve watched their pups roll around in snow and mud with all the joy of a domesticated dog.
I’ve viewed osprey determinedly building their nests. I’ve laughed at the antics of river otters at play. I’ve watched fox and coyotes on the hunt. I’ve listened to the birdsong of who-knows-how-many species. With the help of my spotting scope, I’ve watched mountain goats maneuver along the precipices of high, rugged cliffs. I’ve been victimized by cunning ravens who have learned to unzip untended packs and steal the contents in the blink of an eye. I’ve seen predators gorge on their prey, and I’ve seen potential prey – the wily ones – avoid becoming the dinner of their hunters.
But none of these sightings compare to watching a mountain lion enjoy an elk kill while a dejected wolf – possibly the hunter – watched from a safe distance. Such is the pecking order of the critter kingdom in Yellowstone National Park.
It was frigid that early morning in the northern region of the park. I’m talking 20-below frigid. My small group had already been out in the cold for an hour or so with only marginal wildlife-spotting success. We were ready for some java. Or a round of Bloody Marys.
As we were heading back to Mammoth Hot Springs we passed a pull-out with one parked car and four people jumping around and high-fiving. We turned around, set up our scopes and watched for the next hour as a mountain lion about a mile away gorged on an elk. A wolf, probably ravenous, watched from 50 yards away while the mountain lion lazily chomped away on what was probably meant to be the canine’s breakfast.
The National Park Service estimates that no more than 35 mountain lions dwell in the 3.2 million-acre park. That’s one mountain lion for every 91,428 acres. You can understand why my fellow wildlife-watchers and I were so excited.
While wildlife sightings like that are clearly extremely rare, there are plenty of opportunities to spot wildlife in Cody Yellowstone every season of the year. For visitors, it’s another welcome reason to experience the Great American Adventure here in northwestern Wyoming. For locals it’s another reason why we stay.
Visitors often ask the best way to see critters in the wild, and here is what I tell them.
-If you can, go with a guide. There are numerous companies in Cody Yellowstone that offer guided tours of Yellowstone National Park. The guides usually do the driving, and they tell you about what you’re seeing. You sit back and relax while enjoying one of the best-known landscapes in the world.
-Always observe animals safely. The National Park Service recommends that you stay at least 25 yards from wildlife like elk and bison and at least 100 yards from bears and wolves. Heed this advice, please.
-And use common sense. Watch with binoculars, back away from wildlife approaching you and be courteous when pulling off the road to get a better view.
Until next time, I’m polishing my scope and loving life here in Cody Yellowstone.