Yellowstone Park Wildlife Viewing
More Wildlife Than Almost Anywhere in the U.S.
Keep your eyes peeled for bighorn sheep. During the late fall and early winter, visitors can catch a glimpse of the park's male sheep challenging each other in horn-crashing contests.
Yellowstone is home to more than 200 species of animals - from grizzly bears to bald eagles.
Yellowstone is a lot like “Where the Wild Things Are.” While most people come for Yellowstone’s simmering “fire and ice” hydrothermal geology, many leave talking about the park’s free-range wildlife on display.
It’s not all about the bison (though they are amazing creatures). Many, many big animals roam here. Wolves (more than 300, reintroduced to Yellowstone in 1995-96), bears, elk, and 60 or so other species of mammals. Two of which are threatened (Canada lynx and grizzly bear) and one that is endangered (gray wolf).
And, more than 300 species of birds (more than 100 species in West Yellowstone), 16 species of fish, six species of reptiles, and four species of amphibians just to complete the list.
It’s probably a good time to note that these animals are in their natural habitat, and it's our responsibility to preserve their environment (and keep a safe distance between your camera and their paws). You know what they say about an ounce of prevention, right?
The park boasts North America’s largest free-ranging population of bison in the lower 48 states. Today the population is nearly 4,700, after dwindling as low as 24 near the turn of the 20th century. While their calves appear playful and pup-like, an adult can weigh up to 2,425 lbs and reach a top speed of 35 mph. Keep a safe distance, a minimum of 25 yards, as adults are dangerous and unpredictable.
Once a feared predator in Yellowstone, gray wolves were eliminated from the area by the 1970's. From 1995 to 1996, 31 gray wolves were re-introduced to the park, and their population has grown to more than 400 throughout the greater Yellowstone region.
Yellowstone is home to both the grizzly and the black bear. Omnivorous, bears will roam in search of any and all food. They are closely monitored in the park for both their and visitors’ safety. National Park regulations require all visitors to remain a minimum of 100 yards (91 meters) from all bears for safety reasons. It is a common saying throughout the park that “a fed bear is a dead bear.”
Elk, moose, and mule deer roam Yellowstone, feeding on grass, leaves, and bark. The sounds of males battling for mates can be clearly heard in many parts of the park during the fall months.
Sprinting through Yellowstone at up to 60 miles per hour, pronghorn spend most of their time grazing on the prairies.
A small number of mountain lions prowl Yellowstone. Also known as cougars and panthers, mountain lions in Yellowstone generally reside at higher elevations and are fairly secretive, making them difficult to find.
While in Yellowstone, keep an eye out for some of the park’s smallest, but most fascinating residents. Chipmunks, ground squirrels, martens, beavers, river otters, and yellow-bellied marmots call Yellowstone National Park home.
It only seems fitting that America’s first national park is home to the country’s national symbol. Bald eagles can be found in large trees close to waters so they may prey on fish, an abundant food source.
Another of the park’s raptors, osprey can be spotted near waters and sport a dark stripe across their eyes, sharply angled wings, and barbed pads on their soles to help grab fish, a slippery prey.
Nesting on cliffs near valleys and rivers, these falcons hunt songbirds and waterfowl, attacking at speeds of over 200 miles per hour.
The sighting of a trumpeter swan is very special. These birds are the largest waterfowl in North America and there are only ten resident swans that live in Yellowstone National Park.