Taylor Bland, a wildlife guide in Yellowstone National Park, searches for wolves in all four seasons while running into grizzlies, black bears, foxes and other animals along the way
“Nine grizzly bears, three black bears, ten wolves, five bighorn sheep and one fox.”
This list could be an impressive count of wildlife seen during a week visiting Yellowstone National Park. Instead, it’s a list of animals seen in a single morning during a Yellowstone Wolf Tracker tour led by Taylor Bland.
Bland, who is originally from Ohio, first worked as a zookeeper before feeling uncomfortable with seeing the lives of zoo animals.
“It was pretty unethical work … I vowed to only work with wild animals,” said Bland.
For the past two years, she has done just that, living in Yellowstone and learning the patterns of the animals around her so that she can spot them while guiding tours.
NATIONAL PARK LIVING
Bland meets with tourists daily from all over the world, who hope she will show them the wildlife of Yellowstone — many who have saved up for years for this experience. She often feels the weight of their high expectations, a challenge when wild animals follow their own routines and may prefer a nap in the shade over moving through visible areas.
Other times, animals will give the opposite problem by approaching her groups too closely. In these instances, Bland moves away from the animals to help them not grow comfortable with humans. When animals get used to humans, they may have to be moved to unfamiliar areas or even euthanized.
Although the animals stay unfamiliar with Bland, she can easily recognize many of the individual wolves she sees. “I root for them and mourn for them,” said Bland. “When one was killed last year I definitely cried.”
Working through both the sizzling summer and the frigid winters can be exhausting physically and mentally, but witnessing a guest’s first viewing of a wild wolf makes the stressful conditions worth it.
Even after a tiring week of work, Bland often chooses to spend her days off volunteering with the Yellowstone Wolf Project, a group that monitors the wolves in the park for research. Bland sees herself working for conservation organizations like this in the future.
For now, she can be found in Yellowstone with a pair of binoculars around her neck, ready to give guests a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Follow Taylor Bland on Instagram at @taylorlbland.
Main photo by Michael Sypniewski.