Yellowstone Park Wildlife Guide

See Amazing Wildlife

Yellowstone-Bear-Grizzly

Photo by Jeff Vanuga 

Nowhere in the Lower 48 is there more abundant wildlife than in the greater Yellowstone region. Yellowstone Park is home to the largest concentration of large and small mammals in the Lower 48 states, and most of the species that live in the park also inhabit regions of Grand Teton National Park and the states of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho. The following is a summary of some of the more popular wild animals that live in Yellowstone Park and where visitors might best view each. Just remember to keep your distance. Although they may appear tame, these wild animals are just that—wild.

Elk

The summer population of elk in Yellowstone numbers approximately 15,000 to 25,000, and the winter population numbers about 12,000 to 15,000. Adult bull elk weigh up to 700 pounds, while adult females may weigh up to 500 pounds. The animal’s head is dark brown, and males’ coats are lighter than those of females. Their rear-ends are white, and often give them away to passersby looking for them in dry, brush-covered areas.

The rut typically begins in early September, which is the best time to view elk at lower elevations.

Where to see them: Look for elk throughout Yellowstone, but especially in the Lamar Valley, Gibbon River, Norris Junction, Elk Park and Mammoth Hot Springs areas. Also keep an eye out for them when traveling the Old Faithful-Upper Geyser Basin, Firehole River and Madison Junction areas.

Bison

Yellowstone is home to about 3,500 bison. Bison are respected not only for their size, but also for their resilience. At the turn of the century, America’s wild bison—which at one time numbered 60 million— had dwindled to about two dozen animals.

The bison in Yellowstone today are descendants of those survivors. Bison can weigh up to 2,000 pounds. Although they seem docile, they are unpredictable and have been known to charge at visitors who approach them too closely.

Where to see them: In Yellowstone Park, check out the Lamar and Hayden valleys—both great places to watch bison. Also look for them near Pelican Valley, the Lower Geyser Basin and in Gibbon Meadows.

Bears

The Yellowstone region is home to between 200 and 600 grizzly bears, and many more black bears.

Where to see bears: Unfortunately—or fortunately, depending on how you look at it—we can’t guarantee you’ll see a bear while traveling through Yellowstone or Grand Teton parks. But we can guarantee where you’ll see a bear in the region.

Yellowstone Bear World , located southwest of Yellowstone Park in Rexburg, Idaho, strives to ensure visitors see spectacular animals. To help, Yellowstone Bear World accommodates all vehicles including travel trailers, motor homes and tour buses.

At the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center, see LIVE grizzlies at this AZA Accredited, Not-for-Profit Wildlife Park and Educational Facility, located one block from Yellowstone National Park in West Yellowstone, Montana. The Center is home to nine rescued grizzly bears. Watch them forage for food, play in ponds and wrestle with each other, just like in the wild. Learn about the struggles of the species in the Yellowstone area in our World-Class Bear Museum. If you didn’t get a chance to see a grizzly in the park, a visit to the Center will ensure a memorable trip.

Pelicans

Pelicans are beautiful, graceful swimmers. They have bright orange bills that can measure almost a foot long. They dine primarily on fish, and use their bills to scoop up food. Pelicans often work in groups, like synchronized swimmers, when trying to catch a meal. By crowding around the fish, pelicans are able to corral the fish closer to shore (and shallow water), where the birds scoop them up and eat them.

Where best to view Pelicans: In Yellowstone Park, look along the Yellowstone River between Fishing Bridge and Hayden Valley, and on Yellowstone Lake.

Trumpeter Swans

Trumpeter swans are the largest waterfowl in North America, and the biggest flyers in Yellowstone. Male trumpeter swans’ wingspans can reach seven feet. Usually heavier than eagles, males weigh 25 to 30 pounds, while females weigh 23 to 27 pounds.

They are long-necked and all white, except for their black bills and webbed feet. Trumpeter swans swim with their necks straight up.

Where to view Trumpeter Swans: In Yellowstone Park, the best place to view trumpeter swans is near Seven Mile Bridge, between Madison Junction and the West Entrance of Yellowstone.

Also look for them south of Mammoth Hot Springs on Swan Lake, and on the Yellowstone River between Fishing Bridge and Hayden Valley.

Wolves

Wildlife biologist Doug Smith, who is in charge of the Yellowstone Wolf Project, says a person’s chance of seeing wolves in Yellowstone from the roadside is really good—if you’re patient.

During the winters of 1995 and 1996, a total of 31 gray wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone from Canada. As of early 2008, there were approximately 171 wolves in 11 packs inside Yellowstone Park, with 400 wolves inhabiting the greater Yellowstone region.

Where to view wolves: In Yellowstone, the Lamar Valley is home to the park’s largest pack, the Druid Peak pack. More than 100,000 visitors have reported seeing wolves inside Yellowstone since their reintroduction in 1995.

At the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center, have the unique opportunity to watch two LIVE wolf packs from the comfort of the Naturalist Cabin. Wolf social structure is one of the most fascinating within the animal kingdom. Wolves posses a dynamic and strong family structure that can be observed as these animals go through their day. The wolves at the Center are ambassadors, providing a greater understanding of this predator in the Yellowstone ecosystem. The Center is an AZA Accredited, Not-for-Profit Wildlife Park and Educational Facility, located one block from Yellowstone National Park in West Yellowstone, Montana.

Moose

The largest member of the deer family, the moose is a vegetarian with an odd-looking, but charming, appearance. They are dark brown, with a long snout and bulbous nose, and a dewlap under the throat that distinguishes them from Yellowstone’s other hooved animals.

Where to see them: Moose frequent streams, ponds and marshes in the summer, and feed on succulent vegetation.

About 800 moose inhabit the southern part of Yellowstone, Grand Teton National Park and surrounding national forests. They are most heavily concentrated in Grand Teton Park. Look for moose at Willow Flats, Christian Pond (near Willow Flats) and around Oxbow Bend.

In Yellowstone Park, try Willow Park, between Norris Junction and Mammoth Hot Springs. Also check out the Yellowstone Lake, Fishing Bridge and Hayden Valley regions.

Wildlife Viewing Opportunities

Yellowstone Bear World , located southwest of Yellowstone Park in Rexburg, Idaho, strives to ensure visitors see spectacular animals. Visitors can view a variety of North American wildlife such as elk, bison, white-tailed deer, mule deer, moose and, of course, black bear, grizzly bear and gray wolves—all the animals you would expect to see in Yellowstone National Park but, unfortunately, are rarely seen. Yellowstone Bear World accommodates all vehicles including travel trailers, motor homes and tour buses.

Let the local Yellowstone experts at Yellowstone Tour and Travel help you create a life-long Yellowstone memory with custom vacation packages with lodging combined with unique summer and winter wildlife activities. Call 800-221-1151.

Sheridan, Wyoming , is an outdoor paradise with recreational opportunities as abundant as the wildlife—which includes moose, elk, deer, antelope, birds of prey, turkey and pheasant. The Big Horn Mountains rise majestically to the west, and rolling plains slope gently to the east. Take any roadway out of town or visit Kendrick Park for your fill of wildlife. Just moments away for any outdoor enthusiast are: fishing, hiking, picnicking, biking, rock climbing, wildlife viewing, hunting, cross-country and downhill skiing, snowshoeing, sledding, and snowmobiling.

For a fantastic interpretation of all of Yellowstone’s natural history, including wildlife, habitat and human impact, visit the Draper Museum of Natural History at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, Wyoming. The geographic focus of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem combines educational programming with original research.

Stop at Antelope Island State Park in Davis County, Utah, as you travel along the Wasatch Front. View bison, pronghorn antelope, coyote and mule deer by horseback or aboard a World War II Amphibious Army DUKW Wildlife Safari.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Comment Feed

24 Responses

  1. thanks you very much! this is very helpful!

  2. Are motorcycles allowed in Yellowstone Bear World?

    sue tylerAugust 8, 2011 @ 6:17 pmReply
    • I don’t know what you mean by Yellow stone Bear World, but there are plenty of motorcycle riders in Yellowstone

  3. How far from the park is it over to Yellowstone Bear World?

  4. Can’t wait to go!
    Mark.

    mark richOctober 4, 2011 @ 10:22 amReply
  5. This is wrong the numbers are not correct, tell the truth,Teddy is rolling over in his grave!
    this link gives the right numbers http://www.nps.gov/yell/parknews/11005.htm

    Elk

    The summer population of elk in Yellowstone numbers approximately 15,000 to 25,000, and the winter population numbers about 12,000 to 15,000. Adult bull elk weigh up to 700 pounds, while adult females may weigh up to 500 pounds. The animal’s head is dark brown, and males’ coats are lighter than those of females. Their rear-ends are white, and often give them away to passersby looking for them in dry, brush-covered areas.

    The rut typically begins in early September, which is the best time to view elk at lower elevations.

    Where to see them: Look for elk throughout Yellowstone, but especially in the Lamar Valley, Gibbon River, Norris Junction, Elk Park and Mammoth Hot Springs areas. Also keep an eye out for them when traveling the Old Faithful-Upper Geyser Basin, Firehole River and Madison Junction areas.

  6. Your chance of seeing anything but a Bison or Wolf in the park is extremely rare. The wolves have decimated all the wildlife in yellowstone Park making it feel more like a graveyard than a wildlife viewing area. The actual population of the Elk in Yellowstone Park is below 3000 animals. They will be extinct in this area by 2015. If you have been to Yellowstone recently or are going, make sure to ask the people at the front entrance why you arent seeing any wildlife?

    jason hammondJanuary 19, 2012 @ 3:38 pmReply
    • Such an ignorant comment. Do the wolves and the rest of us a huge favor and get your facts straight before opening your pie hole. This comes straight from the National Park Service:

      “Gray wolves, eliminated from the park by the 1930s, are being restored, but not because park managers think the wolves will “control” the number of elk. Instead, 15 North American wolf experts predicted that 100 wolves in Yellowstone would reduce the elk by less than 20%, 10 years after reintroduction. Computer modeling of population dynamics on the northern winter range predicts that 75 wolves would kill 1,000 elk per winter, but that elk would be able to maintain their populations under this level of predation, and with only a slight decrease in hunter harvest. Since the restoration of wolves to Yellowstone began in January 1995, scientists have begun to document the effects of wolves on elk and other species. Wolves are preying predominantly on elk, as expected. They have also occasionally preyed upon moose, bison, deer, and even one pronghorn antelope.

      The carrying capacity of the northern winter range increased in the 1980s because elk colonized new winter range in and north of the park, wet summers resulted in better plant production, winters were mild, and the fires of 1988 opened forests allowing more ground cover to grow. Since 1985, more than 11,000 acres of elk winter range have been purchased by the State of Montana and the U.S. Forest Service north of the park, increasing elk carrying capacity and reducing conflicts between native wildlife and agriculture.”

      The FACT of the matter is that currently more than 30,000 elk from 7-8 different herds summer in Yellowstone and approximately 15,000 to 22,000 winter in the park. The largest factor influencing Yellowstone’s elk population is the “other W word”: WEATHER.

  7. the bear is such a cutie

  8. I would like to flag comment 9.
    It is untrue, hateful and clearly orientated.
    On the contrary the wolves have improved the ecosystem. Bears, antelopes and beavers have seen their numbers increased significantly with the wolves return.

  9. GDAY hi we are coming over from australia in june so we can tick it off the bucket list we are going to yosemite and then to yellowstone . Can anyone give us any idea on routes to both parks what would be the best entrance for us we intend to be over for about 3 weeks and are trying to figure out if we should hire a motorhome or just a car or 4 wheel drive to get about ie what are the roads like inside the park and are you restricted to them cheers allan

  10. i go to yellowstone every year just to see the wild life , i always see grizzlies, black and even a blond bear . i have seen brand new wolf pups , moose, elk , swans eagles, and mamy many more i have never not seen wildlife ,, stupid people yes those are also there to watch….

    • lisa,

      we have never been to yellowstone in winter. Ive heard the northern range is best to see wildlife. Do you find this to be true? if not where would you suggest we go? we have inquired with a quide and they said norther range to see wolves, fox, etc. What is your opionion/

  11. amazing…
    I am very happy with this article

  12. nice

  13. Hi I am coming to this wonderful country in 6 weeks came last year and visited the other side with the glacier park this year its Yellowstone, Cody, billings and Virgina city and Laurel (for the 4th July). Is there a horse riding place close to Old Faithful and what is the Beartooth highway like for driving on?

    Appreciate your answers
    thanks Tracy

    tracy turnerMay 9, 2012 @ 2:06 amReply
  14. This is a great run-down on where to see the amazing wildlife in Yellowstone. I’ve been fortunate enough to have visited twice, and each time saw grizzly and black bears, coyotes, moose, elk, deer, and of course lots of bison. My husband and I plan to go back – I don’t think I would ever get tired of this park.

  15. For MJ: There for 14 years. The wolves truly have decimated the coyote, rabbit/hare, deer(there werent that many deer anyway) and the elk herd. It is so sad!:(

  16. I would like to flag comment 11. Keep drinking the kool-aid and tweak your meth.

  17. To Patty. Someone has to do it and I get elected. Keep believing that they only take the sick and maimed. You watch too many documentaries. Stay out there awhile and you will learn the truth. Do you think someone sits with a hand-counter and counts elk? On the subject of livestock predation: One cow is worth about $1000 in 9/20/12. Can you just walk away from that sum? NO. It is also hard to prove predation after coyotes and buzzards and rain or snow have removed condemning evidence. Making a living here is tough. No elk tags, no money/economy for the local towns. Stay in your city and leave the battle to the warriors. GOD Bless

    • There are cattle ranchers on the borders of Yellowstone who are definitely anti-wolf for their own agenda and attempting to recruit others to support them. The wolf belongs in this environment, the cow was brought in. If you are are going to free range your cattle to save money on feed then you will just have to take your chances.

  18. are the bears vegetarians? :s

  19. I agree that the wolves have done significant damage to the elk population. However i am not against the wolves being here but would like to see a season to hunt them. population control is a must as well as i would love to bag a wolf. i love to hunt and fish and am sick and tired of big city people having an opinion about things they know nothing about. i live in the northwest and have seen first hand the effect of wolves on our big game population. these people see something on tv and just believe it to be true because its what they want to believe. I dare say most everyone that hunts and i mean really hunts dedicated every year out in the wild would agree with me. paid hunts with a guide on a ranch somewhere does not count.

  20. Notre generateur de kamas est enfin terminée et disponible gratuitement en téléchargement.

    Ne perdez pas de temps il n’est disponible qu’en quantité limitée.
    Notre generateur de kamas est garantie de non-bannissement
    avec pleins d’options intégrée vous garantissant une sécurité parfaite.

    Il est important de comprendre que notre programme n’est pas compliquée d’accès et vous permet une utilisation poussé
    en toutes circonstances
    Non seulement vous allez pouvoir générer des kamas
    très facilement mais en plus vous êtes sur
    d’être en toutes sécurité grâce à notre moyen de programmation spéciale utilisant des techniques utilisés par les plus grands du moment.



Some HTML is OK

or, reply to this post via trackback.

Close X