For many of us, spring is filled with relaxation and vacations, swim suits and sunshine.
The season is a favorite of many, because it serves as a true relief from the long, cold winter that has finally ended. However, in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, spring brings forth a new set of challenges for many species of mothers, who are getting ready to start birthing and rearing the young they have been carrying and nourishing for the past several months.
Along with Mother Nature’s biological clock, it’s Montana’s ample winter snowpack that makes the heart of spring (April and May) the best time of year to see wildlife. With most of the mountain pastures still covered in snow, most wildlife has no choice but to wait out the meltdown in the lower, more hospitable areas that have open grass and temperatures mild enough to birth and raise their newborns.
Fortunately, for those of us looking to view these mothers with their new young, this means that we don’t need to travel anywhere but low, hospitable areas to do so. A casual drive on one of Yellowstone National Park’s newly-opened seasonal roads, a walk along one of the Bozeman Area’s many hiking paths or a backroad adventure down one of Gallatin Valley’s countless country lanes is adventurous as one needs to get to experience a wildlife viewing trip of a lifetime.
Baby wildlife viewing season kicks off in April, when newborn bison, moose and elk begin to appear in Yellowstone National Park. This is one of the best opportunities you’ll get to see the miracle of life actually happen, as these herbivores are especially fond of the type of low-lying, grassy terrain that is found in abundance just off of Hwy. 212, the road that connects the towns of Gardiner and Cooke City, bisecting Yellowstone’s Lamar Valley.
For those with their heart set on seeing a young carnivore or omnivore, April and May are the best months to do that, too. Although most of these animals, such as bears, foxes and wolves, give birth in their dens during the late winter, they don’t typically surface and begin foraging for food until spring. Since the landscape will be devoid of nuts, berries, rodents and bugs for months to come, calving grounds, river beds and south-facing winter ranges serve as prime springtime feeding grounds for these ferocious fuzzballs.
For experienced or easy-going wildlife viewers, a do-it-yourself type trip can be perfectly fulfilling this time of year. But like anything, if you are new at the activity or are looking to hone your skills a bit, heading out to the wild with a professional guide will always yield the best results. Check out this list of our area’s most reliable outfits and don’t forget your binoculars.
Yellowstone Safari Company: www.yellowstonesafari.com
Yellowstone Tour Guides: www.yellowstonetourguides.com
Yellowstone Alpen Guides: www.yellowstoneguides.com