Wyoming Wildlife - September 2022

Summer Showcase

Yellow-bellied marmot - The charismatic marmot thrives in a wide range of habitats around the state: rock outcrops, talus fields, roadside/railroad banks in coniferous forests, sagebrush grasslands, mountain foothills and shrublands.

Summer Wyoming road trips could be dubbed wildlife-watching tours. It’s a great way to catch a glimpse of many species — big and small. Wyoming Game and Fish Department employees are on the road often during the summer — here are some of their favorite photographs from their travels.

Patrick Owen, Grant Frost, Mark Nelson, Stan Harter and Justin Binfet
9/1/2022 12:01:00 AM

Wyoming is abundant with wildlife, and summer is prime time for wildlife viewing in the state. Some head to see wildlife in unique and remote locations, but you don’t always need to take a long hike or spend hours waiting to get a memorable view of animals in the Cowboy State.

Whether you’re into birds, big game or small critters, you don’t necessarily have to go far from the beaten path to observe them in action.

Join Game and Fish employees Patrick Owen, Grant Frost, Mark Nelson, Stan Harter and Justin Binfet on their summertime trips photographing some of Wyoming’s wildlife.

Remember, if you’re photographing wildlife, always do so ethically with the safety in mind for both you and wildlife. All of these images were responsibly taken a short distance from roadways, parks and other areas accessible to the public.


The charismatic marmot thrives in a wide range of habitats around the state: rock outcrops, talus fields, roadside/railroad banks in coniferous forests, sagebrush grasslands, mountain foothills and shrublands.
Owen, Game and Fish graphic designer and Wyoming Wildlife creative director, took this photo along a dirt road, and even though it was June, it was cold enough for a jacket. A combination of rain and snow made it feel even colder but added dimension and interest to the shot.
Owen found this image to be a lesson in patience. After he got out of his vehicle, the marmot moved away. But, it didn’t scamper far, stopping atop a rock to survey the situation. It stayed there for about 10 minutes and gave Owen the chance to snap the snowy shot.



Swift foxes can be difficult to spot. They’re North America’s smallest, wild canid, weighing about 5 pounds as adults. With their black-tipped tails, they can easily be differentiated from their red fox cousins.
Nelson, Game and Fish project coordinator, was on a country road near Cheyenne one evening looking for nighthawks when he spotted these curious kits. They were at a den located only 15 feet from the road. With one sitting outside the den, the other peaked from behind and soon joined its sibling to watch Nelson.
Nelson leveraged his vehicle for stability and used a bean bag on the edge of the window opening to get a secure base for his lens.
“It’s amazing how well a vehicle works as a blind when you are able to do so safely,” Nelson said. “Animals often seem less intimidated if you’re sitting in your vehicle.”



Binfet, Game and Fish wildlife management coordinator in the Casper Region, took this photo off the Grand Loop Road south of Tower Junction in Yellowstone National Park. The adult sow was bedded underneath an aspen while her two young-of-the-year cubs played on this nearby downed tree. This cub was crawling in and out of the splintered trunk, and appeared to be eating beetle grubs. In areas like Yellowstone, images like these are fairly common from a road — so it remains important to exercise restraint to respect and view wildlife from a safe distance. This photo was taken a few days before the June floods in Yellowstone.
“Yellowstone is one of the most amazing places on earth to view wildlife as long as you can deal with crowds when viewing from a road,” Binfet said.



Sometimes you head out in pursuit of one subject but another opportunity presents itself. This loggerhead shrike is an example of that welcome surprise. Nelson heard about a hawk nest north of Cheyenne. Once he found the location, he noticed these little shrikes lined up on nearby branches. They regularly perched on one branch that caught his eye, so he pointed his lens to the branch and waited for the right shot. It didn’t take long for the birds to land on the popular spot, and he was able to take several images of them.
“When I photograph birds, I take a lot of images,” Nelson said. “They have a membrane that can cover their eyes and make a picture look off, so I set my camera to take a burst of images to have plenty of options.”
These birds often sit on exposed branches while looking for prey like insects, lizards and rodents. They are known for impaling prey on thorns or barbed-wire so they can eat it later, and the hook at the tip of the beak helps with the task.


Northern leopard frogs inhabit water throughout Wyoming, and it doesn’t always have to be large bodies of water. They are often spotted in small creeks and ponds. When Harter, a Game and Fish wildlife biologist in the Lander Region, spotted this frog it was in a small pond near Buffalo Creek north of Jeffrey City. Even though the pond was small, no bigger than 12 feet across, 10 frogs were beating the heat of the day in the water.
This frog was spotted near a two-track road on land operated by the Bureau of Land Management. Taking the scenic route is a low-effort way to spot wildlife. If you use this strategy, always research the terrain to make sure it is accessible to your vehicle and ensure you aren’t trespassing on private land.


Bighorn sheep aren’t commonly spotted in the heat of the summer, but some areas of the state offer viewing opportunities of these majestic animals. Harter spotted five rams off the road below Game and Fish’s Whiskey Mountain Conservation Camp and caught this bachelor’s headshot.
“If I was going to pick a spot to look for bighorn sheep in early summer, that’s where I’d start looking,” Harter said.
Although bighorn sheep are usually at higher elevations during the summer, they will occasionally drop down to areas that can be spotted from the road. The road is accessible to the public, offering access to U.S. Forest Service land, camping and a short hike to nearby petroglyphs.


The most commonly-seen big game in Wyoming is the pronghorn. Driving along most well-traveled roads throughout the state chances will reward you with a right-of-way cluster of these speedy ungulates.
But what about fawns? First and foremost, it is important for the safety of people and wildlife not to disturb the animals — young and old — but there is a way to spot the young. Owen, following a tip from a colleague, looked for doe pronghorn in the early-summer months, hopeful that her fawns were close by.
“Look about 50 yards away from the doe to spot the young in nearby vegetation,” said Ray Hageman, Game and Fish videographer.


Grant Frost, Game and Fish senior wildlife biologist, snapped this image at Lions Park in Cheyenne. Park geese in particular are docile most of the time and can be good subjects for a budding shutterbug.
“These geese are acclimated to having people around them and their young because of the grass they feed on next to the water. This was taken early in the morning,” Frost said.“Strong, low-angle light is great for vivid colors, but the subject has to cooperate to get the best direction from which to take the picture.”
Remember, even animals at the park may get agitated or defensive. Evaluate the situation and be sure to limit stress on wildlife, even at the park.


Sometimes you don’t even have to leave town to spot engaging wildlife. City parks can often provide enjoyable wildlife and bird watching.
This juvenile Cooper’s hawk was one of many spotted in Cheyenne’s Lions Park. Nelson heard about the juvenile hawks at the park and took his camera for a stroll. Although most people would look to the skies and trees when looking for birds, Nelson spotted this bird on the ground scavenging for food dropped by other hawks.


Backyard photography can be an opportunistic boon, especially if you can make your space wildlife-friendly. Frost captured this image at a field near his Cheyenne home with skeletons of last year's sunflowers still standing.
“Perches like this can be set up in a yard to provide photo opportunities by having birds land where you are ready to capture the image,” Frost said.
Don’t let the weather slow you down. Overcast days can be great for photography. “The diffused light avoids harsh shadows and provides a pleasing effect,” Frost said. “The combination of a large aperture and long lens blurs the background and foreground to concentrate the picture on the subject.”


Early summer can be a great time to spot cow elk with their calves. Although early morning and evenings just before sundown are frequently good times to spot wildlife, any time of day could yield successful wildlife viewing. Binfet got this shot at 11 a.m. off of Chief Joseph Highway near Sunlight Basin in northwest Wyoming. There were 18 cows and 16 calves in total, far enough off of the road that they were undisturbed by intermittent highway traffic. The image was taken from approximately 600 yards away — another long-lens moment.


Moose most often stick to Wyoming’s mountain ranges and river bottoms. However, Owen spotted this moose in an open meadow without a close water source nearby. If there is food to draw them, moose will go there no matter the location.
Owen was tipped off about these moose by a Game and Fish biologist who said he saw moose in this area of the Bighorn Mountains. One of the most challenging aspects of photographing the moose was the wind. You can see some of the wind-blown hair tufted this way and that along the body. The shot captured an element of air movement not always seen in wildlife photography, but it posed a challenge for a clear, crisp image from the camera being pushed by gusts.


Tips for viewing and photographing wildlife

  1. If photographing from a roadway, fully pull off the road, activate hazard lights and watch for traffic. There are some roads in Wyoming where it is unsafe or illegal to stop, so know if you are allowed to pull over before your trip.
  2. Keep a safe distance from wildlife — this means 100 yards from bears and 25 yards from other wildlife. 
  3. Avoid disturbing animals with your presence. Some animals are more patient with human presence than others. Be mindful that stopping could stress wildlife, so move on if they seem agitated.
  4. Utilize scenic pull-outs and parking areas whenever possible. Many of these points are located along Wyoming’s highways, and often offer great wildlife viewing opportunities.
  5. Call or stop by the regional Game and Fish office. Speaking with a biologist or game warden can give insight into where to look.
  6. Don’t stop on private land without the landowner’s permission.


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