Enjoy Our Wild America from the Seat of Your Volkswagen at the National Parks!
Favorite Large Mammal Species at the National Parks in the Continental US
If you have been following our blog, you know that we LOVE talking about the national parks just as much as we love talking about Volkswagen. These treasures are always fun to explore and leave us in complete awe every time we visit. And they are always fun to travel to in a new Volkswagen vehicle! While we usually showcase the vehicles in the Volkswagen lineup and their amazing features that can make a road trip to a national park better, we thought that we would do things a little different today and showcase some of our favorite wildlife species that we have seen while driving our Volkswagen.
Once a common sight on the Great Plains before the era of westward expansion, the American Bison still calls several national parks home – most notably Yellowstone, Theodore Roosevelt, Grand Teton, and the Badlands. It is the heaviest land mammal in the United States (average weight for a bull is about 1,600 pounds) and has a temperamental personality.
The American Black Bear is one of the most commonly-seen creatures in nearly all the national parks. Depending on their regional location and subspecies, a wide spectrum of fur colors can be found. Black Bears are capable of opening screw-lid jars with their paws and sometimes can be a nuisance for campers in the national parks.
Though its technical name is the North American Brown Bear, the Grizzly Bear can be blonde to dark brown in color. It can be distinguished from the Black Bear with its (typically) larger size, pronounced shoulder hump, and 4-inch claws. It is estimated that there are 600 Grizzly Bears in the Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks.
While not the largest mammal on this page, the Mountain Goat is one of our favorite creatures to see in Yellowstone, Glacier, Mount Rainier, Rocky Mountain, and Badlands national parks. Their hooves are specially designed to help them climb rocky cliffs with ease. Male Mountain Goats are called “billies” while females are called “nannies”.
Aptly named for the curved horns on the ram’s (male) head – each of which can measure up to three feet long and weigh 30 pounds – the Bighorn Sheep makes its home in North America’s western mountainous region and national parks. At one time, the Bighorn Sheep was nearly wiped out but thanks to conservation efforts, they have made an amazing comeback.
The Cougar is an animal of many names – including Mountain Lion, Catamount, Panther, Painter, and Puma. Once widespread across America from Atlantic to Pacific, the Cougar’s territory has been reduced to the nation’s western mountains. It can be found in Yellowstone, Yosemite, Rocky Mountain, and other western national parks.
As the largest member of the deer family, a bull Moose can measure up to seven feet tall at the shoulder. His antlers can span up to five feet across and weigh nearly 80 pounds! The Moose can be spotted throughout the northern US, but is a longtime resident at the Acadia, Grand Teton, Yellowstone, Rocky Mountain, and Isle Royale national parks.
Once on the brink of extinction, packs of Timber Wolves can be found in several national parks like Isle Royale and Grand Teton. The Timber Wolves that live in Yellowstone are particularly special because they were reintroduced to the park in 1995. Since then, their numbers have increased and have had a positive effect on Yellowstone’s ecosystem.
Please note that these species are wild in the national parks and should be enjoyed at a safe distance from the comfort of your Volkswagen. Always practice caution and common sense when hiking or camping in the national parks. Do not attempt to feed, pet, or take selfies. Doing so may result in injury or death from potential attacks, or fines instilled by the National Park Service or U.S. government.
In the words of Marty Stouffer, “until next time, enjoy our Wild America!”