Photos that trace migrations through Yellowstone

Ungulates overcome highways, rivers and other barriers while roaming the region.

  • A bull elk migrating out of Yellowstone National Park into the lower elevation ranch lands for the winter. Its massive antlers catch snow as it brushes by trees. This photo was made with a motion-triggered camera trap.

    Joe Riis
  • Elk migrating over a high mountain pass on the eastern boundary of Yellowstone National Park. This photo was made with a motion-triggered camera trap, and the elk did not know that they were being photographed.

    Joe Riis
  • A pronghorn migrating south for the winter, caught in a wire fence. The photographer was able to pull the fence apart, setting the animal free.

    Joe Riis

 

Pronghorn, mule deer, elk, bison, moose, bighorn sheep: All of these ungulates migrate seasonally through the landscape surrounding Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks. They spend the summer foraging in high-elevation areas, then move to milder, low-elevation regions to survive the winter, all within the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem.

In Yellowstone Migrations, photojournalist and former wildlife biologist Joe Riis documents the movement of pronghorn, mule deer and elk through the region. His images show the many obstacles the animals face — from fast-moving rivers to fences, highways, homes and other development. Riis, who grew up on the Northern Plains, has spent close to 10 years following the migrations, using motion-activated camera traps to document the animals without disturbing them. “Every step of the way,” writes Wyoming-based author Gretel Ehrlich in the introduction, “we ponder what it will take for humans to exist in this vast territory such that the herds can move through.”

Yellowstone Migrations 
Joe Riis
176 pages, hardcover: $29.95. Mountaineers Books, 2017.

 

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