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Yellowstone National Park Wildlife

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Yellowstone National Park Wildlife

When Is the Best Time 

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:

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Wildlife
US
Where  
United States, Wyoming
Review and Tips 

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.

Top Tips
  • 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.:

https://www.nps.gov/yell/learn/nature/wildlife.htm
http://www.pineedgecabins.com/yellowstone-guide-book/when-to-see-yellows...
http://www.yellowstonepark.com/wildlife/
http://www.yellowstonepark.com/see-amazing-wildlife/

Great expert advice: TOP SPOTS TO VIEW WILDLIFE
Yellowstone National Park map: https://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/maps.htm

Book Recommendation

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.


click/touch the image for details on amazon.com

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Comments

Apr 24, 2016

We prefer early June. The baby mammals are so cute and the summer crowds are almost non-existent that early in the season.

Apr 29, 2016

During the summer of 2005 our entire family took a trip out west to see our great national parks. We went early in the summer and got some great wildlife photographs. We loved hiking to the top of Mt. Washburn and it was a pretty easy hike for being the tallest peak in the park.

May 01, 2016

@Sonbuchner: We are planning on going in early summer as well to avoid the biggest crowds. Thanks for the Mt. Washburn hiking tip :)

May 01, 2016

I have been to Yellowstone from early June through August. It's hard to find a bad month. All my visits have been either on my motorcycle or on the back of my husband's. Every visit is amazing, every visit is different, in part due to the wildlife.

Jun 21, 2016

A couple of things I've found:
- Moose can be hard to find, but best bets are near the south entrance/Bechler area, northeast area and north of west thumb area. Check with rangers as to most recent sightings because they are familiar with wildlife movement throughout the park.
- Mt. Everts peak (by the north entrance/Gardiner, Montana) is a great place to spot bighorn sheep. It's a great place to get pictures, as well, due to the rock face backdrop. The hike to Mt. Washburn is also a place you might spot bighorns.

Jun 21, 2016

Also, another universal tip to keep in mind is that - due to Yellowstone crowds in certain hot spots - if you just hike a couple of miles from the tourist areas/roads, your chances of spotting wildlife greatly increases.

...and remember to ALWAYS BRING BEAR SPRAY and insect repellent (and/or treat your clothing) if you're going to hike - and then hope you never need to use the bear spray!

Jul 31, 2016

August is bison month at Yellowstone N.P.

Apr 15, 2018

What an amazing example of beauty in motion! Yellowstone's Prong Horn's during winter blend beautifully with the natural colors of sage brush and other dormant plant life. This was during our February winter visit that we take each year. This year held much harsher weather than usual and we found ourselves caught up in quite a few blizzards that allowed me to capture some beautiful shots.....

Apr 15, 2018

Mid April 2016 our first chance to witness coming out of hibernation up close and personal this handsome and healthy grizzly. He was stunning to watch. I didn't have time to set my shutter speed higher so not as sharp since we all were moving swiftly towards our cars. It was pure accident the crowd was photographing a location in Mammoth Hot Springs when he came out of no where while lazily chomping on grass at 20 yards!

Apr 15, 2018

While visiting in mid April 2016 it was interesting to watch a coyote digging after the quick prairie dog. Coyote passing up a duck dinner as he searches for a bigger meal. Curious to watch for long spans of time as they continue their daily life without noticing our presence.

Apr 15, 2018

Blending into the landscape was the ability of these 2 Sandhill Cranes....until they opened their mouths! As Spring was turning into Summer the vegetation was very accommodating to their needs.

Apr 15, 2018

Beautiful delicate Prong Horn does are very close to delivering their young within the vast acres of sagebrush and sunshine. Mid Spring in the Lamar Valley where they seemed be found dotted through the landscape.

Apr 15, 2018

While Winter can be extremely harsh it can also be wonderland beautiful. Coyotes are very resourceful when it comes to finding there meals that travel under the deepening snow.

Apr 15, 2018

Survival is brutal in the winter months and finding food can be as simple as excepting leftovers. Lamar Valley is one of those places you find wildlife scouting out their options.

Apr 15, 2018

The American Bison (nicknamed Buffalo) are my favorite animal in Yellowstone NP. They lumber their way across the terrain grazing as they go. During the winter they swing their head and muscular neck back and forth in the snow to clear ground in search of food and display the endurance needed to survive. Watching them power through snow banks and deep snow gives you the sense of their strength. The heat from the summer temperatures remind you of the extreme weather tolerance their body must have been built for. When their born you can't but love how adorable they are with the reddish-tan color at birth, which gave them the nickname ("red-dogs") and begin turning brown after 2-½ months. Mother's are very protective of the new arrivals and you want to give them extra distance so not to stress them out. When they are getting up in years you tend to see them off alone away from the main herd.

Apr 17, 2018

The black bear is much smaller than the grizzly but still a wonderful sight to see. During the spring the adorable cubs are great fun to watch as they play and cause mischief for their mothers. The sows are very protective and keep a close eye on where your located in regards to their young. At times when they feel threatened they will puff or blow their lips as a warning. They are another of Yellowstone's wildlife you give a wide berth by staying a safe distance away.

Apr 17, 2018

Trumpeter Swan's create such a serene landscape. The trumpeter swan (Cygnus buccinator), named for its resonant call, is North America’s largest wild waterfowl, with a wingspan of up to eight feet. These swans require open water, feed mainly on aquatic plants, and nest in wetlands. Lay 4–6 eggs in June; young (cygnets) edge in late September or early October. Usually in pairs with young in summer; larger groups in winter.

Apr 17, 2018

Roosevelt Elk live throughout the park and are pretty elusive except at Mammoth Hot Springs where they lounge in the front yards of the historic buildings. Bulls are the toughest to find when they are out and away from the Mammoth Hot Springs area. Cows can be found in small to large herds in the valley's. Most are easier to spot in winter when their color contrast the white snow.

Apr 17, 2018

Winter in Yellowstone is an absolute wonder. It transforms into a completely new park. Animals of all kinds can more easily be found and their habits seen. Bighorn Rams can be found along the roadway past Tower Junction digging through the deep snow looking for food. They balance their heavy curled horns as they scale and move about the rock face. They have a stance and presence like royalty wearing the crowns of nature.

Apr 18, 2018

During all my visit to Yellowstone I've never been lucky enough to spot a fox, until winter of 2016. Driving through the snowy landscape we came up to a group of photographers on the side of the road and knew that could only mean one thing. Your right it meant the group had come across some sort of wildlife and it was time to get out the camera. Sitting high above the road on an exposed rock point lay a beautiful fox enjoying the sunshine.

Apr 18, 2018

Survival in Yellowstone can be brutal in any season but winter seems to combine weather and opportunity which lessens the odds. I've been privileged to witness the circle of life as coyotes, eagles and even magpies gather around carcasses left behind by those who most likely fell pray from a larger more fierce predator.

Apr 18, 2018

Moose are at times tough to spot during most seasons where they have the ability to blend into the landscapes. However winter is another story. During a blizzard this February we had stopped for a moment to let the road clear a bit to better our visibility and to our great surprise 3 moose lay tucked away in the surrounding willows. Moose love willow which are naturally found near water such as rivers, creeks and even lakes or marshes.