By Ruffin Prevost
CODY, WYO. — Locals across the greater Yellowstone area know that spring is a great time to see birds and wildlife before the crowds of summer visitors arrive, and warmer temperatures push the animals to higher elevations.
Now, a new birding and wildlife festival starting in Cody, Wyo. this week aims to attract visitors to experience the early season, while reminding residents of the rich and diverse range of resources just outside Yellowstone National Park’s eastern boundary.
Spring Into Yellowstone runs May 15-19, and includes a trade show, film screenings, art events and an impressive line-up of field tours to see birds, wildlife and natural landscapes across a vast expanse of varying terrain.
Early response to the festival itinerary has been good, with many attendees saying they are surprised at how many events are on the schedule, said Jill Osiecki Gleich, events coordinator for the Cody Country Chamber of Commerce.
“In some ways, they’re overwhelmed. It’s really hard to explain how much is going on until you’ve looked at the schedule of events,” she said.
Nearly three dozen events are planned between Wednesday and Sunday, including a trade show, art instruction, photography workshops, film screenings and several guided tours and hikes.
While Yellowstone is a key draw for many visitors, much of the festival focuses on landscapes located east of the park, around Cody and the Bighorn Basin.
“We have so much more to offer beyond Yellowstone here in area, so this is a great way to give those places some exposure,” Gleich said.
A number of festival partners are cooperating in an effort to showcase resources with specific connections to their particular organizations.
For instance, biologists from the Shoshone National Forest will lead tours to spot grizzly bears along the North Fork of the Shoshone River, between Cody and Yellowstone; recreation planners from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management will lead a nature hike on Bald Ridge; Wyoming Game and Fish Department staff members will lead a trip through the 19,424-acre Yellowtail Wildlife Habitat Management Area near Lovell; and the nonprofit Friends of a Legacy group will guide visitors through the McCullough Peaks Wild Horse Management Area.
Other partners for the festival include the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, the Meadowlark Audubon Society and the National Park Service.
Gleich said those who have booked early tickets include hardcore bird-watchers out to see elusive species like a sage grouse, but also visitors interested in art, geology and wildlife.
Many festival events, including several tours and field trips, are free. Space is still available for most events, although some are beginning to fill up, including a sold-out field trip on Saturday to view birds and other wildlife in Yellowstone’s Lamar Valley with Park Service raptor biologist Lisa Baril.
Contact Ruffin Prevost at 307-213-9818 or [email protected].