WY – Yellowstone NP . . . hanging with the charismatic megafauna

This was my first up close and personal experience with bison. My first question was what’s the difference between buffalo and bison. According to the NPS web site, “Bison are part of the family Bovidae, to which Asian buffalo, African buffalo and domestic cattle and goats belong. Because American bison resembled in some ways old world buffalo (Asian and African buffalo), early explorers to North America began to call them buffalo. Although it is a misnomer, the name buffalo is still used interchangeably with bison.” 

I was surprised to see the rib cage on some. What surprised me even more was that they (and their pies) seemed to be everywhere. They wandered the campground, through the hot springs and geyser areas, hillsides, creeks, valleys, and roads. They reminded me of the cows I saw on the Arizona trail. 

By far my favorite was witnessing the nursery. I found meadows filled with moms who were in the process of giving birth or who’d just given birth. I sat in awe for a couple of hours watching the natural bonding.

This one looked really old and like he/she had just taken a dust bath. 

How about an itching post. He looked all tangled up, and obviously can’t read. 

I’ve learned if you see a group of vehicles pulled over, there’s probably a charmistic megafauna sighting. I stopped and was told there was a bear sleeping deep in the ravine, and when I asked if it was a grizzly, they said no. Since I’ve seen plenty of black bears, I drove on. A few hours later I returned and there was still a crowd. I stopped again and was told there was a black bear who’d been devouring their kill. Supposedly there were nearby cubs. So I snapped a few photos unable to see much except a black blob. Well I was quite happy to see this when I enlarged the photo. 

Date(s) Hiked: April 17-19, 2016

Road Trip Day(s) #59-61 out of 88


  • The only campground in the park open during the winter/early spring season is Mammoth
  • Come prepared with grizzly bear spray or buy at Visitor’s Center upon arrival
  • Microspikes or YakTrax are a good option for early season travel.




3 thoughts on “WY – Yellowstone NP . . . hanging with the charismatic megafauna

  1. That’s cool that you got to watch the moms and offspring for extended periods of time. I used to do that with the mountain goats in Glacier and really got a better appreciation for them.

    Maybe if I did that with cows I wouldn’t be so scared when encountering them on trail or trying to get around them to get water at cattle tanks. Or not….

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