We spent a great week in the beautiful Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks in early September. It was still warm in the valleys and on the plains, with just a touch of autumn colour in the trees, but the high passes in the beartooth mountains had the feeling of coming winter. It was great to finally experience these stunning places, having enjoyed them from a distance time and time again in wilderness and mountain films.
We were hoping to catch up with quite a few of the region's mammals, while keeping the family sane and alive. With Phoebe & Layla now just starting to walk and trying out their first words, we tried to get out of the car and on to the trails as much as possible, and hoped that they'd settle in for good naps at peak mammal-driving times! After quite a bit time on the trails with our bear spray, Phoebe's tiny repertoire had extended to chanting "Hello bear! Hiya bear!".
In the end we caught up with grizzly bear, black bear, wolves, coyote, red fox, mountain goat, bighorn sheep, elk, moose, mule deer, bison, pronghorn and plenty of chipmunks and red squirrels. For some reason, despite repeatedly scouring apparently good areas, we missed most of the larger rodents, including the ground squirrels, marmots and pikas. Otter and beaver also elluded us, but we were never able to stay for long at the most promising spots at the right times of day, so that was no great surprise. We would also have loved to cross paths with American badger or one of the weasels, but it wasn't to be this time.
Logistics: we flew in to Jackson airport and hired a car for the week, spending our first and last nights in the Grand Teton area, heading up through Yellowstone to stay for the four nights in between near Cooke City, just outside the north-east entrance. While in Yellowstone we spent each early morning and evening in the Lamar valley area, where the chances of wolf are arguably highest, and headed deeper in to the park and on to the trails (bear spray at the ready!) in the time in between. As always, we had gathered together what information we could from the trip reports on mammalwatching.com, and found Max Waugh's Yellowstone wildlife guide and map quite handy, along with info from Yellowstone.net.