Yellowstone National Park Wildlife
Where animal sightings happen, depends on habitat preferences, weather and seasonal cycles of movement. Still, it's often a matter of luck but you can increase your chances by following our monthly guide. Which animal can be seen in which months:
April - Early June
Most animals can be spotted in or near the valleys. It's the time for baby bison, baby moose, baby bear, baby elk and many more. Also a good time to spot wolves and grizzly bears. Grizzly sightings occur mostly at night, dawn and dusk. A great grizzly bear spot in spring are the shores of Yellowstone Lake. Gray wolves are often seen in Lamar Valley and Hayden Valley.
Mid-June - August
Many animals leave the valleys and head for higher areas in June/July. However, bison are still there, starting to rut in early August. Warm, great weather but also peak tourist months.
September - October
Animals return to the valleys. Elk rut throughout September. The fascinating rut can be witnessed up-close in Mammoth Hot Springs, near the northern entrance. Together with amazing fall colors it’s one of the best time to view or photograph almost every animal including elk, moose, bighorn as well as wolves and grizzly. Less crowded than in summer.
November - March
Winter, a magical time and least crowded. Most animals are in or near the valleys. Some can be spotted near the steaming geyser basins. Winter is the best time to view wolves. You can also observe bison, elk, bighorn and others. Another great time for photographers, since animals are easier to spot against the snow. Grizzly bears can't be spotted, since they hibernate in winter until mid-March.
Time of Day
The best time of day for wildlife viewing is either dawn or dusk. In general dawn is even superior: Be at the valleys from sunrise till 9 AM. It's also less crowded. However, dusk is also great, particularly for elk viewing in Sept.
Click/touch to enlarge the wildlife timeline:
Yellowstone's abundant and diverse wildlife are as famous as its geysers. There are 67 species of mammals including 7 species of native ungulates and 2 species of bears, nearly 300 species of birds, 16 species of fish, 5 species of amphibians, and 5 species of reptiles.
- It's extremely valuable to stop by ranger stations to find out the recent animal sightings and whenever you spot a ranger, get perspective from each of them.
- Hike a couple of miles from the busy tourist areas/roads, your chances of spotting wildlife greatly increases.
- Equipment: Binoculars are a must but a spotting scope is even better.
- Always hike with bear spray! Particularly in summer, bring insect repellent and/or wear clothing treated with insect repellent.
Other great resources for wildlife in Yellowstone N.P.:
This book is a must read about Yellowstone and its wild inhabitants. Read it, even if you’re only remotely interested in wildlife and wildlands. It feels as if you’re right there with the author on his hikes.