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Wildlife Along The Beartooth Highway - Beartooth Highway | Montana & Wyoming Scenic Drives

Wildlife Along The Beartooth Highway

Wildlife Along The Beartooth Highway

Wild is the word for the abundant wildlife found along the Beartooth Highway. Here in the midst of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem large and small mammals, birds, and river trout thrive in one of the few intact ecosystems found anywhere in America.

Traveling the Beartooth Highway visitors have unparalleled access to this still pristine landscape – and wildlife viewing is one of the most exciting and popular pastimes for Beartooth Highway travelers.

Locals will tell you that the best time to view wildlife is early each morning and close to dusk each evening.

The Grizzly Bear

Beartooth Highway - WidlifeLewis and Clark wrote about them, mountain men feared them, and they are often the main characters in Native Americans legend. For years they have represented the true “wild” west. Today, this elusive giant roams the wild areas surrounding the Beartooth Highway, and grizzly bears are frequently sighted in the Lamar Valley of Yellowstone. Wildlife watchers most often spot these solitary creatures early in the morning and at dusk each evening as they amble close to tree line in search of food. The Fish and Wildlife Service reports that approximately 600 grizzly bears currently inhabit areas in and around Yellowstone National Park.

It is important to remain “Bear Aware” along the Beartooth Highway corridor. The Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee provides an excellent website ( http://www.igbconline.org )were visitors can familiarize themselves with grizzly bear information. The new website is user-friendly for easy navigation and includes information about grizzly bear recovery efforts, bear safety techniques, educational programs and opportunities, and research projects, as well as information about local events.

The Gray Wolf

Beartooth Highway Wolf WatchingIn 1995 the majestic gray wolf was reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park. Reintroduction efforts have been successful and wolves now roam the wild regions of Yellowstone National Park and surrounding areas. In the upper northwest corner of Yellowstone National Park lies the wild expanse of land known as the Lamar Valley.

The Lamar Valley has become the premier wildlife viewing area in Yellowstone, and is especially popular as a wolf watching headquarters. The Beartooth Highway provides direct access to the Lamar Valley through the Northeast entrance to Yellowstone, and many travelers find the small mountain hamlets of Cooke City and Silver Gate, Montana serve as a perfect headquarters for wildlife watching – providing comfortable accommodations and quick access to both Yellowstone Park and the high reaches of the Beartooth Wilderness.

The Mountain Goat

Beartooth Highway - Wildlife WatchingWatching the mountain goats of the Beartooth Highway scamper along the steep rocky cliffs of the high mountain peaks will send a heart racing wildly! It is not uncommon for a goat to leap from one narrow mountain ledge to another or make a quick turn around on a narrow rocky precipice that is only inches wide. These fleet footed inhabitant of the Beartooths are not native to the area, but have adapted will since their introduction in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s. Their pure white coats often stand out against the green grass of the warm summer months.

The Beartooth Highway is one of the few American roads that take visitors to the very top of the world for a view of the wild world of the mountain goat. Locals will tell you that the best time to view wildlife is early each morning and close to dusk each evening. Visit these great sites for wildlife watching tips: Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Viewing Wildlife in Yellowstone

Birds Abound

Many birds are summer residents to the alpine. One hundred fifteen species of birds have been identified within the Beartooth Corridor. Here are just a few:

Beartooth Highway - Widlife The Beartooth Highway is home for the Mountain Bluebird – it lives on insects and worms. Bluebirds hunt from perches and often drop onto the ground to catch their prey. Nests are built in cavities in trees and snags, and frequently in nest boxes. Nests are made from woven grasses, then lined with fine grass, soft bark, hair, or feathers.
Beartooth Highway - Widlife The American Dipper (Cinclus mexicanus), also known as a Water Ouzel, is a stocky dark grey bird with a head sometimes tinged with brown, and white feathers on the eyelids cause the eyes to flash white as the bird blinks. It has long legs, and bobs its whole body up and down during pauses as it feeds on the bottom of fast-moving, rocky streams.
Beartooth Highway - Widlife As only a summer resident, the Horned Lark nests and raises its young amid the short grasses of the tundra. This bird is probably the most numerous song bird in the world.
Beartooth Highway - Widlife Here is a bird worth seeing! The White-crowned Sparrow is handsome, with its black and white crown and gray breast. It summers among timberline trees. Here the young are raised on only seeds.
Beartooth Highway - Widlife You will find the Green-winged Teal nesting along water’s edge. It eats aquatic plants.
Ruffed Grouse Ruffed Grouse live along the Beartooth Highway – nesting on the ground and feeding on seeds and berries.

Did You Know?

Clay Butte Lookout - Beartooth Highway

The Clay Butte Lookout was built in 1942 by the Civilian Conservation Corps and was used as a fire lookout. It was staffed until the 1960s, when aircraft proved a better tool for fire detection. Today, because of its popular scenic vantage point and proximity to the Beartooth Highway, Clay Butte is used as a visitor information site. It was remodeled in 1962 and has been staffed since 1975 by volunteers. The focus of Clay Butte today is to give visitors a glimpse of how fire lookouts functioned 60 years ago. Sightseers driving the scenic byway stop to obtain information or take in the view, which includes wildlife, botanical areas, the effects of the Clover-Mist wildfire of 1988, and the geology of ancient seas that once covered the Beartooth Plateau.

Cooke City Montana - Beartooth Highway

The Cooke City cemetery is located only a short distance from town, adjacent to the Gallatin National Forest Service Campground. Within the plot lie the remains of many who cherished the hope for the future of Cooke City, including one of its founders, Horn Miller.   When lumber for coffins were needed, men of the community simply used parts of uninhabited buildings to construct the boxes.