Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

The Babies are Coming! Springtime Brings Life to Yellowstone

March 3, 2010, 1:50 pm

You know spring has finally arrived in Yellowstone National Park when the babies make their debut. Furry, fuzzy, frisky and adorable, bear cubs, bison and elk calves and wolf pups begin appearing on the Yellowstone landscape as early as March, and their youthful activities delight spring and summer visitors and residents alike.

“Those of us who live and work here know that every season in Yellowstone is special for different reasons,” said Rick Hoeninghausen, director of sales and marketing for Xanterra Parks & Resorts, operator of lodges, restaurants, tours and other concessions in the park. “In the spring, it truly feels like the park is awakening from a long winter sleep. As soon as we begin to see new green sprouts of grass we know that we will also soon start seeing the babies.”

And those Yellowstone babies are so darn cute. Parenting techniques vary widely in the park. Mothers of any species might be envious of maternal black bears, which sleep through most of their labor, become only semiconscious during delivery and then return to a deep sleep for another two months while their blind and toothless young nurse and doze alongside them.  Born with reddish-colored fuzzy fur, bison calves can keep up with their mamas as soon as two hours after birth. Bambi-like cute when they are born in May and June, elk calves can walk on their gangly legs within an hour of birth. The target of many of the park’s predators, elk calves learn quickly that there is protection in numbers, and they stay close to mothers’ grazing herd of cows and calves.  Moose cows chase offspring from the previous year away when they are ready to give birth to a new calf. And female pronghorn typically deliver a set of twins. Young pronghorn walk within 30 minutes and can outrun a human within just a couple of days. They are ultimately capable of running up to 45 miles per hour.

One of the best ways to observe wildlife and learn about their habitat is by participating in a Xanterra tour. Tours are led by trained interpretive guides who are knowledgeable about the parks’ many species and trained to spot wildlife activity as they drive through places like Lamar and Hayden Valleys and other wildlife habitat in the park.

Tours operating dates vary according to the location of the designated lodge pick-up point and the area of the park to be explored. The Old Faithful Snow Lodge opens April 30 and is the first lodge to open. The last lodge to open is Roosevelt Lodge on June 11.

For example, the four-hour “Wake Up to Wildlife” tour in a Historic Yellow Bus departs three park hotels during the early morning and proceeds to Lamar Valley in Northern Yellowstone, an area often called the “American Serengeti” because of its abundance of wildlife. The park’s animals are often most active during the early morning and at dusk. The four-hour “Lamar Valley Wildlife Excursion” travels to Lamar Valley during the hours just before sunset.

Xanterra offers more than a dozen tours in all, including partial-day, all-day and evening tours in Historic Yellow Buses, vans or motorcoaches. Tour dates and rates vary. For a complete listing of tours as well as other spring and summer activities visit www.YellowstoneNationalParkLodges.com/summer-activities-199.html. Xanterra also offers custom guided tours for groups ranging from four to 36 people. For more information about custom tours visit www.YellowstoneNationalParkLodges.com/custom-guided-tours-1829.html.

Xanterra interpretive guides and National Park Service rangers remind all park visitors to view wildlife from a safe viewing distance – at least 25 yards for most Yellowstone animals and at least 100 yards for bears and wolves. Yellowstone’s four-legged females are dedicated mothers who protect their young with gusto and will respond aggressively if they perceive a threat to their babies.

For additional information about the wildlife of Yellowstone National Park visit the National Park Service web site www.nps.gov/yell/naturescience/animals.htm.

Complete details about accommodations, restaurants, tours and activities in Yellowstone National Park can be made by visiting www.YelllowstoneNationalParkLodges.com or calling (1) 307-344-7311 or toll free (1) 866-GEYSERLAND (1-866-439-7375).