Wildlife In Wyoming

Wyoming is one of the most stunning states in America due to its small human living population and dense amounts of uninhibited wild land! Being Home to more than 100 mammal species and 400 species of birds, Wyoming’s wild residents include bison, mountain lions, wolverines, bobcats, grizzly bears, black bears, elk, moose, deer and pronghorn antelope, as well as wild horses…. This blog will pinpoint a few wildlife species in Wyoming, as thereare two National Parks in the state of Wyoming: Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park.

Make use of the headings below or instead enjoy the whole blog in its entirety. Don’t forget to leave a comment sharing your experience of wildlife in Wyoming or your plans to go their one day!

Wyoming

Bison

Mountain Lions

Wolverines

Bobcats

Grizzly Bears and Black Bears 

Wild horses

Bison

It is only appropriate to start with the Bison as Wyoming designated the American bison as official state mammal in 1985! The American bison is also a state symbol of Kansas and Oklahoma, and as of May 9, 2016, the official national mammal of the USA. 

Yellowstone is the only place in the United States where Bison have lived continuously since prehistoric times. Yellowstone bison are exceptional because they comprise the nation’s largest bison population on public land. Unlike most other herds, this population has thousands of individuals that are allowed to roam relatively freely over the expansive landscape of Yellowstone National Park and some nearby areas of Montana. They also exhibit wild behaviour like their ancient ancestors, congregating during the breeding season to compete for mates, as well as migration and exploration that result in the use of new habitat areas. These behaviours have enabled the successful restoration of a population that was on the brink of extinction just over a century ago.

Bison in Wyoming

However, some Yellowstone bison are infected with brucellosis, a livestock disease that can be transmitted to wild bison and elk as well as to cattle through contact with infected foetal tissue. To prevent conflicts with ranching and other activities outside the park, the National Park Service (NPS) works with other federal, state, and tribal agencies to manage and develop policies for bison access to habitat in Montana. Conservation of wild bison is one of the most complex of Yellowstone’s resource issues.

Bison are the largest land-dwelling mammal in North America. Males (900 kg) are larger than females (500 kg) and both are generally dark chocolate-brown in color, with long hair on their forelegs, head, and shoulders, but short, dense hair (3 cm) on their flanks and hindquarters. Calves of the year are born after 9 to 9-½ months of gestation. They are reddish-tan at birth and begin turning brown after 2-½ months. Both sexes have relatively short horns that curve upward, with male’s averaging slightly longer than those of adult females.

All bison have a protruding shoulder hump. Large shoulder and neck muscles allow bison to swing their heads from side-to-side to clear snow from foraging patches, unlike other ungulates that scrape snow away with their front feet. Bison are agile, strong swimmers, and can run 35 miles per hour (55 km/h). They can jump over objects about 5 feet (1.5 m) high and have excellent hearing, vision, and sense of smell.

Bison in Wyoming

Bison are the largest land-dwelling mammal in North America. Males (2,000 lbs/900 kg) are larger than females (1,100 lbs/500 kg) and both are generally dark chocolate-brown in color, with long hair on their forelegs, head, and shoulders, but short, dense hair (1 in/3 cm) on their flanks and hindquarters. Calves of the year are born after 9 to 9-½ months of gestation. They are reddish-tan at birth and begin turning brown after 2-½ months. Both sexes have relatively short horns that curve upward, with male’s averaging slightly longer than those of adult females.

All bison have a protruding shoulder hump. Large shoulder and neck muscles allow bison to swing their heads from side-to-side to clear snow from foraging patches, unlike other ungulates that scrape snow away with their front feet. Bison are agile, strong swimmers, and can run 35 miles per hour (55 kph). They can jump over objects about 5 feet (1.5 m) high and have excellent hearing, vision, and sense of smell.

Yellowstone bison feed primarily on grasses, sedges, and other grass-like plants (more than 90% of their diets) in open grassland and meadow communities throughout the year. They also eat forbs (weeds and herbaceous, broad-leafed plants) and browse (the leaves, stems, and twigs of woody plants) through the year, but those usually comprise less than 5% of the diet. They typically forage for 9 to 11 hours daily. Bison are ruminants with a multiple-chambered stomach that includes microorganisms such as bacteria and protozoa to enable them to effectively digest plant material. Bison alternate between eating and ruminating, which is regurgitating partially digested food and chewing it again, to allow microorganisms to further break down plant material into volatile fatty acids and other compounds. Their large digestive tract allows them to digest lower quality foods with greater efficiency than other ungulates such as cattle, deer, or elk.

Bison in Wyoming

Wolves and grizzly bears are the only large predators of adult bison. Dead bison provide an important source of food for scavengers and other carnivores. Bison will rub against trees, rocks, or in dirt wallows in an attempt to get rid of insect pests. Birds such as the magpie perch on a bison to feed on insects in its coat. The cowbird will also follow close behind a bison, feeding on insects disturbed by its steps.

Mountain Lions

Mountain Lions are technically known by a few names, Puma, (Puma concolor), cougar, panther (eastern U.S.), or catamount (archaic), They are large brownish New World cat comparable in size to the jaguar—the only other large cat of the Western Hemisphere. The puma, a member of the family Felidae, has the widest distribution of any New World mammal, with a range extending from south Eastern Alaska to southern Argentina and Chile. Pumas live in a variety of habitats, including desert scrub, chaparral, swamps, and forests, but they avoid agricultural areas, flatlands, and other habitats lacking cover (vegetative or topographic).

Cougar in Wyoming

The puma is active mostly at dusk, night, and dawn. Throughout its range its primary prey is hoofed mammals (ungulates, especially deer) larger than itself. In North America each puma kills about 48 ungulates per year and a larger number of smaller prey, including rabbits and hares, coyotes, bobcats, porcupines, beavers, opossums, raccoons, skunks, and other pumas. Domestic livestock, especially sheep, goats, and young calves, are also taken. It is rare for pumas to feed on carcasses that they did not kill. When hunting, a puma moves about 10 km (6 miles) per night, hunting in several travel bouts averaging 1.2 hours each. Traveling alternates with shorter periods of stalking, waiting in ambush, or resting. Slower than most of its prey, it springs from cover at close range, usually from behind the intended victim. When feeding on a large mammal, it minimizes spoilage and loss to scavengers by dragging the carcass to a secluded cache site and covering it with leaves and debris. During the day the cat commonly beds within 50 metres of the carcass, and it will feed for an average of three nights on a large kill. Except when feeding on large prey, a puma rarely beds in the same location on successive days.

Adult males and females are both solitary except for breeding associations lasting one to six days. Pumas are usually silent, but during this time they emit long, frightening screams intermittently for several hours. Pumas breed throughout the year, with a summer peak in births at higher latitudes. The interval between births is about two years, but it is less if a litter dies or disperses early. Cubs are born after a 90-day gestation period; the litter size usually is three but ranges from one to six. Spotted and born blind, each weighs about half a kilogram. The birth site, usually in nearly impenetrable vegetation, is kept free of feces and prey remains. It lacks any obvious modifications and is abandoned when the cubs are about 40–70 days old. Cubs are reared without assistance from adult males, which occasionally kill cubs that are not their own offspring. Cubs accompany their mother until dispersing at 10–26 months of age, but most die before they can fend for themselves. Upon surviving their first two years, juvenile females disperse 9–140 km (average 32 km); juvenile males generally disperse farther, sometimes traveling more than 250 km. It may take a year for them to become part of the breeding population, and during the transition an individual may sequentially occupy and abandon one to five small transient home ranges. If a home range can be established, the cat can be expected to live another 7–11 years. Wolves and bears occasionally kill pumas and sometimes commandeer the carcasses of prey killed by them. Most deaths, however, are attributable to hunters, other cougars, or motor vehicles.

Adult males and females are both solitary except for breeding associations lasting one to six days. Pumas are usually silent, but during this time they emit long, frightening screams intermittently for several hours. Pumas breed throughout the year, with a summer peak in births at higher latitudes. The interval between births is about two years, but it is less if a litter dies or disperses early. Cubs are born after a 90-day gestation period; the litter size usually is three but ranges from one to six. Spotted and born blind, each weighs about half a kilogram. The birth site, usually in nearly impenetrable vegetation, is kept free of feces and prey remains. It lacks any obvious modifications and is abandoned when the cubs are about 40–70 days old. Cubs are reared without assistance from adult males, which occasionally kill cubs that are not their own offspring. Cubs accompany their mother until dispersing at 10–26 months of age, but most die before they can fend for themselves. Upon surviving their first two years, juvenile females disperse 9–140 km (average 32 km); juvenile males generally disperse farther, sometimes traveling more than 250 km. It may take a year for them to become part of the breeding population, and during the transition an individual may sequentially occupy and abandon one to five small transient home ranges. If a home range can be established, the cat can be expected to live another 7–11 years. Wolves and bears occasionally kill pumas and sometimes commandeer the carcasses of prey killed by them. Most deaths, however, are attributable to hunters, other cougars, or motor vehicles.

Cougar

Pumas live at low density (one to five per 100 square km) and thus, in order to survive, require large areas with sufficient prey and cover from which to ambush it. In a given region there are about two adult females for every male. There is extensive overlap between female home ranges but very little overlap between territories of adjacent males. Home ranges vary greatly in size, but the average female territory is 140 square km (54 square miles), with male territories being about twice as large.

Wolverines

Wolverines (Gulo gulo) are the largest terrestrial member of the weasel family. Wolverines are naturally rare and persist at extremely low population densities. Very few individual wolverines have been detected in Wyoming, including in Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park. The current status and distribution of wolverines in Wyoming is largely unknown, and there are vast tracts of potential wolverine habitat in the high country of the state. Formal wolverine surveys and research have been applied in the Teton Range and Yellowstone National Park, but outside of these areas, detections are scarce.

Wolverine in Wyoming

Recent research has shown that the worldwide distribution of wolverines is closely tied to the distribution of persistent late spring (April and May) snowpack. Females dig dens in deep snow to birth and raise young until they are old enough to venture out of the den. Year round, wolverines tend to use higher elevations where snow persists and temperatures stay cool, typically above 8,000 feet.

Wolverine In Wyoming

Wolverine conservation has been restricted due to a lack of understanding of the fundamental ecology and distribution of this native species. Recent research is beginning to improve this situation, but more work is needed to understand which habitats are occupied and to understand demographic measures of population persistence.

Bobcats

The bobcat (Lynx rufus), alias “wildcat,” is a medium-sized member of the North American cat family. It can be distinguished at a distance by its graceful catlike movements, short (10-to 15-cm) “bobbed” tail, and round face and pointed ears. Visible at close distances are black hair at the tip of the tail and prominent white dots on the upper side of the ears. Body hair colour varies, but the animal’s sides and flanks are usually brownish black or reddish brown with either distinct or faint black spots. The back is commonly brownish yellow with a dark line down the middle. The chest and outside of the legs are covered with brownish to light grey fur with black spots or bars.

Bobcat in Wyoming

Bobcats living at high elevations and in northern states and Canada have relatively long hair. In southern states, bobcats may have a yellowish or reddish cast on their backs and necks. The bobcat is two to three times the size of the domestic cat and appears more muscular and fuller in the body. Also, the bobcat’s hind legs are proportionately longer to its front legs than those of the domestic cat…

Bobcats are secretive, shy, solitary, and seldom seen in the wild. They are active during the day but prefer twilight, dawn, or night hours. Bobcats tend to travel well-worn animal trails, logging roads, and other paths. They use their acute vision and hearing for locating enemies and prey.

Bobcats do not form lasting pair bonds. Mating can occur between most adult animals. In Wyoming, female bobcats reach sexual maturity within their first year but males are not sexually mature until their second year. Nationwide, breeding can occur from January to June. In Wyoming, breeding typically begins in February and the first estrus cycle in mid-March. The gestation period in bobcats ranges from 50 to 70 days, averaging 62 days.

Nationwide, young are born from March to July, with litters as late as October. The breeding season may be affected by latitude, altitude, and longitude, as well as by characteristics of each bobcat population. In Wyoming, births peak mid-May to mid-June and can occur as late as August or September. These late litters may be from recycling or late-cycling females, probably yearlings. In Utah, births may peak in April or May. In Arkansas, births may peak as early as March.

Bobcat in Wyoming

Nationwide, young are born from March to July, with litters as late as October. The breeding season may be affected by latitude, altitude, and longitude, as well as by characteristics of each bobcat population. In Wyoming, births peak mid-May to mid-June and can occur as late as August or September. These late litters may be from recycling or late-cycling females, probably yearlings. In Utah, births may peak in April or May. In Arkansas, births may peak as early as March.

Bobcats weigh about 2/3 pound (300 g) at birth. Litters contain from 2 to 4 kittens. Kittens nurse for about 60 days and may accompany their mother through their first winter. Although young bobcats grow very quickly during their first 6 months, males may not be fully grown until 1 1/2 years and females until 2 years of age. Bobcats may live for at least 12 years in the wild!

Bobcats are capable of hunting and killing prey that range from the size of a mouse to that of a deer. Rabbits, tree squirrels, ground squirrels, wood rats, porcupines, pocket gophers, and ground hogs comprise most of their diet. Opossums, raccoon, grouse, wild turkey, and other ground-nesting birds are also eaten. Occasionally, insects and reptiles can be part of the bobcat’s diet. In Canada, the snowshoe hare is the bobcat’s favourite fare. Bobcats occasionally kill livestock. They also resort to scavenging.

Grizzly Bears and Black Bears

Grizzly Bears and Black Bears are plentiful in Wyoming especially in Yellowstone and Teton National Park! Read more about these species in our related blog articles about:

Brown Bears in the Wild

Where you can see and Encounter Black Bears 

And Bears around the Globe 

Brown Bear

Wild Horses in Wyoming

Wild horses have always been symbols of the West, living examples of a wide-open landscape and an untamed frontier spirit. Horses were first seen in this country about 10,000 years ago, but for unknown reasons became extinct. They were not seen again for another 9,000 years when the Spanish reintroduced them in the 1500’s.

Wild Horses in Wyoming

Most wild horses in Wyoming are located in the southwestern quarter of the state. The Rock Springs BLM is the headquarters of the Wild Horse Program in Wyoming. The appropriate management level for wild horses in Wyoming is approximately 6,000. 2,500 of these horses are in the Rock Springs District. Federal and private lands form a checkerboard pattern in the Rock Springs District. The existence of the herds of wild horses is a credit to the private landowners of this area who do not fence their land, thus allowing the horses to wander as necessary for food, water, and shelter in the winter as nature provides.

Wild horses have no true natural predators other than the occasional mountain lion. As a result, populations can increase at a very high rate. This rate of increase is generally about 20% per year, with good years topping 40%. When populations of wildlife, wild horses, and domestic livestock exceed the capabilities of their habitat, the environment begins to suffer. If prolonged, it leads to poor rangeland and an overall decline in the health of the wild horses…

Summary

I hope you enjoyed reading a little bit about the Widlife in Wyoming. Not only is it one of the most incredibly wildlife dense states in America, its amazing National Parks such as Yellowstone and Teton make the visit all the more worthwhile! If visiting Wyoming is now on your bucket list here are some operators which may be able to help you on your journey to disocering the “Wild West”. 

Wyoming Wildlife Advocates

Yellowstone National Park Trips

Travel Wyoming : Grand Teton National Park

Wyoming