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Spotting baby animals in Yellowstone

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A black bear sow and her cub near Tower Fall. NPS PHOTO

By Christine Gianas Weinheimer EBS CONTRIBUTOR

Who can resist the charm of clumsily cute baby animals? During the spring and summer, Yellowstone visitors who are on the lookout for wildlife may catch a glimpse of young animals and their playful antics. We’ve rounded up a few tips to increase the likelihood that you might spot baby animals during your park visit:

Black bears

A mother black bear gives birth to one to four cubs in the winter, and they will emerge together from the den in April or May. Cubs start practicing climbing trees as soon as they are strong enough, as they are not fast enough to outrun predators. Look for black bears in open spaces within or near forested areas.

Where to see: Mammoth, Tower and Northeast Entrance

Grizzly bears

Like black bears, mother grizzlies emerge from their dens in April or May with one to four cubs. Grizzly cubs generally stay with their mothers for two years, however weaning of one- to three-year-old cubs also occurs.

Where to see: Spring – Yellowstone Lake, Fishing Bridge, Hayden and Lamar valleys, Swan Lake Flats and the East Entrance. Summer – Meadows between Tower-Roosevelt and Canyon, and in the Hayden and Lamar valleys

Bison

Bison cows give birth to single calves in late April or May. The reddish-brown calves, nicknamed “red dogs,” can keep up with adult bison only two to three hours after birth, and they are well protected by their mothers and other members of the herd. Look for calves with bison herds in open, grassy areas all over the park.

Where to see: Mammoth, Lamar and Hayden valleys, West Entrance, Madison, Norris and Old Faithful

Elk

Elk cows give birth to single calves, weighing around 30 pounds, in May or June. Elk calves can walk within an hour of birth, and are often seen in a “nursery group” of cow elk and calves, separated from bull elk. Elk herds can be seen throughout the park. In the heat of mid-day they are most likely to be seeking shade under large trees.

Where to see: Gardiner, Mammoth and along the Madison River

Viewing tips

Mammal mothers are very protective and will not hesitate to charge anyone they perceive as threatening their babies. Always stay at least 100 yards away from bears and wolves, and at least 25 yards away from all other animals.

Avoid the temptation to inch closer; instead, bring binoculars or a spotting scope. For your best chance of spotting park wildlife—especially bears—plan your outing for dawn or dusk, and consider a wildlife-watching tour such as Yellowstone Day Adventures provided by Yellowstone Forever.

Christine Gianas Weinheimer lives in Bozeman and has been writing about Yellowstone for 17 years.

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