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On their first migration to their summer range in southeastern Yellowstone, three-week-old calves of the Cody elk herd follow their mothers up a 4,600-foot slope. A few hours earlier they swam the swollen South Fork of the Shoshone River

Photographer Joe Riis on Yellowstone

A wildlife biologist turned photographer follows daunting animal migrations across Yellowstone's expansive landscapes.

Joe Riis is one of six photographers who contributed to  National Geographic magazine's special issue on Yellowstone. Learn about the other five at

The first migration that Joe Riis studied in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem was of pronghorn. Next the wildlife biologist turned photographer followed a 150-mile mule deer migration. Then Riis and ecologist Arthur Middleton spent two years documenting elk migrations, for which they were named National Geographic’s 2016 Adventurers of the Year.

By photographing “all the animals that need the freedom to roam,” Riis says, “I wish to show what is at stake.” He hopes his work encourages “a new understanding and appreciation of our first national park.”

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Members of the Cody herd traverse Thorofare Plateau—the most remote area in the lower 48—just outside the southeast corner of Yellowstone. The elk bands graze there until early autumn, when snow pushes them out of the mountains. 
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Trapped by an advancing high-country snowstorm in late July, elk researcher Arthur Middleton and outfitter Wes Livingston huddle next to a campfire with their dogs. 

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A camera trap at Eagle Pass, on the southeast side of Yellowstone National Park

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Pronghorn headed to Grand Teton for the summer ford the Green River.

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An image taken during the pronghorn migration

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Pronghorn antelope in western Wyoming 

See more from Joe Riis on Instagram and his website