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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 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. 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:

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.:


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



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.