Want to catch a few pics of some of Yellowstone National Park’s baby animals (like this little elk spotted in the park, above)? You’d better get planning! The chance to check out wobbly-legged youngsters is a short window from April through June. At that time, the calving season is drawing to a close and the little ones are out learning to walk.
Yellowstone spokesman Al Nash noted to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle last June, “There’s just something about them that our visitors just find uniquely enticing. Folks come here knowing that that opportunity presents itself.”
With more than 60 different mammal species living in the greater Yellowstone and Grand Teton national park ecosystems, there’s a lot to see.
Cubs are born during the winter hibernation and emerge from their dens with mom in the spring. Grizzly bears emerge in mid to late-March (Look for them in Lamar Valley especially if there is a bison kill.) Black bears emerge earlier, in late-February, because they den at lower elevations (Look for them around Mammoth and Tower.)
Cubs typically stay with their mothers for two to three years.
Have you ever heard of the term, “Momma Grizzly” when talking about a protective mother? It can be very dangerous to get close to a cub. Bring binoculars and a long lens for your camera so you can keep your distance.
One last tip about bears… People watching bears are easier to spot than the bears themselves. Watch for groups of people on roadsides and trailsides.
These little guys are so cute they got their own police escort:
Bighorn sheep babies might be tough to spot since the ewes give birth in protected cliff areas far from predators. But, as the fuzzy animals are most often seen on the McMinn Bench of Mount Everts, Mount Washburn and Dunraven Pass (in the summer) and between Mammoth Hot Springs and Yellowstone’s North Gate, you might want to start your search in one of those areas.
Elk start calving in late May and June which is the start of the vacation season. Elk offspring are likely to be spotted all throughout the park but are often hidden to keep them safe from predators. Just keep an eye out for the adults’ easy-to-spot white rear end and you’ll know that a calf may be nearby.
Bison Calves (Buffalo)
Bison start calving in April. A bison calf can stand within a few hours after being born so they are mobile rather quickly. After a couple days of isolation during birth, the mother and offspring return to the herd. Bison calves stay within the all-female herd for about three years which provides provides protection from predators such as bears and wolves. Fathers do not have any part in raising of a calf and are often referred to as “bachelors.”
April can be a tricky month for vacationers because the roads are typically closed in late-April for snowplowing. But don’t worry. You can spot bison calves with their herd all summer and fall, especially in Hayden Valley.
Need a final push to make the trek? Here’s a comment from Delight Kuhnle of Cody, Wyo. about why seeing Yellowstone’s baby animals is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
“They’re just so innocent, so beautiful and so cute,” she said. “They’re so unaware of the dangers, yet they’re so in tune with their mother. They’re always learning. I mean it’s just awesome to watch them. When the herd moves they don’t know why they’re moving, but they figure it out eventually.”