The Babies are Coming!
Although the first official day of spring this year is Sunday, March 20, the season truly begins when the first bear cub is spotted in the wild for most area residents. Even if feet of snow is still on the ground, a bear cub spotting means that the long northwestern Wyoming winter is winding down.
It also means that the next generation of bison, wolves, elk, moose, and even river otters will soon make their debut.
Cody Yellowstone is home to dozens of wildlife species, including apex predators like bears and wolves, other large mammals like elk and bighorn sheep, and birds of prey such as eagles and osprey. Other critters include foxes, beavers, coyotes, river otters, mountain goats, marmots, pronghorn, pikes, and Yellowstone Cutthroat trout.
The next generation for most of these species will soon make their debut in Cody Yellowstone, and many will be easy to spot from pullouts along our scenic byways.
Here’s a closer look at the next generation of wildlife that will soon call Cody Yellowstone home.
Bison calves are often the first of the young ones to make their debut. Reddish-colored, fuzzy-furred bison calves are quick studies, and they can keep up with their mothers as soon as two hours after birth. It takes a village to protect a bison calf, and all adult bison surround young calves when predators such as wolves and bears are nearby. Fun fact, baby bison’s color and often exuberant demeanor have earned them the nickname “red dogs”.
Black bear cubs
Black bear cubs were born during the winter, and they spend the first couple of months of their lives nursing and dozing while their semiconscious mamas continue to slumber in their dens. The bear cubs finally see daylight around April. Mothers spend the next 16 to 18 months teaching their babies how to survive in the wild.
Moose cows aren’t quite as patient with their young. Once they give birth to a new calf – typically in May or June – they chase away the previous season’s calves. While not known for their intelligence, moose are predictably unpredictable, particularly when protecting a calf. Moose cows will chase human observers and other wildlife if they perceive a threat. Moose are frequently spotted near the Northeast and East entrances to Yellowstone.
Bighorn sheep produce one or two lambs annually. Born in May or June, the lambs immediately begin the multi-year process of growing their horns. For this species, size matters. The horns on male Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep can weigh as much as 40 pounds, and the size of horns can influence a ram’s rank in the herd.
Elk thrive throughout the region, particularly in East Yellowstone Valley along the North Fork of the Shoshone River. Usually born in late May and June, elk calves like most ungulates can walk within an hour or two of birth. An elk cow’s protective strategy when predators are near is to run away in hopes the predator will follow her and not notice the newborn lying motionless in the grass.
Wolf pups begin appearing in April and May, and their packs will remain with them for three to 10 weeks as they learn bit by bit how to be a wolf in Yellowstone. Their playful antics with their littermates make wolf-watching in spring especially fun. While wolves roam throughout the Greater Yellowstone region, the best sightings are often in the Lamar Valley inside the park.
River otters are also born with an entertainer’s spirit, but they are a little harder to spot. Born in March and April, these aquatic nomads stay with their moms for a year as they learn how to find fish and other food and swim underwater for minutes at a time.
Eagles emerge in mid-April and fly from their nests three to four months later. This remarkable once-endangered bird is one of 19 raptor species in the park. Northwestern Wyoming is home to bald eagles and golden eagles. Bald eagles feed on fish, and their nests can often be found in trees close to water. Golden eagles are more frequently spotted in valleys where they can accommodate their preference for rabbits and other small mammals.
Pack Your Binoculars!
The first rule of wildlife watching, especially when babies are involved, is to keep your distance. The National Park Service instructs visitors to stay at 100 yards from bears and wolves and 25 yards from other species.
The Babies are Coming. Are you?
Spring is a beautiful time in Cody Yellowstone and the perfect season for an unforgettable outdoor vacation. Start planning your Great American Adventure today with help from our vacation planning guide.