Nowhere in the Lower 48 is there more abundant wildlife than in Yellowstone country and surrounding areas.
Yellowstone National Park is home to the largest concentration of large and small mammals in the lower 48 states. Most of the animals in Yellowstone Park also inhabit regions of Grand Teton National Park and the states of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho.
Following is a summary of some of the more popular wild animals that live in Yellowstone Park and where visitors might best view each. Remember, you may also see these animals while traveling in surrounding states.
Keep your distance. Wild animals are just that - wild - and although they may appear tame, they are not. Visitors are reminded not to approach, harass or feed wildlife.
See a Bear!
Yellowstone country is home to 210-610 grizzly bears and many more black 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 you'll see a bear in the region.
Yellowstone Bear World, located southwest of Yellowstone Park in Rexburg, Id., strives to ensure visitors see spectacular animals. To help, Yellowstone Bear World accommodates all vehicles including travel trailers, motor homes and tour buses.
The Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center is a unique non-profit bear and wolf preserve. The wildlife facility is located in the gateway community of West Yellowstone, Mont., just a block away from the west entrance of Yellowstone National Park. Enjoy up-close views of live grizzly bears, including a sow and her two yearlings.
See Loads of Elk in Yellowstone Park
The summer population for elk numbers approximately 15,000-25,000, and the winter population numbers about 12,000-15,000. Adult bull elk weigh 500-700 pounds, while adult females may weigh anywhere from 400-500 pounds. The animal's head is dark brown in color, 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. An elk's tracks resemble two facing half moons.
During early September, the elk's rut typically begins, and perhaps there's no better time to view this animal. Fall visitors to Yellowstone will be treated to the elk's bugle, which is the animal's way of telling other bulls that are competing for his females to "back off." The bull elk also bugles to round up his harem.
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.
See Bison (also called American buffalo)
Yellowstone is home to about 3,500 bison. Bison are respected not only for their size, but 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.
These last few animals took refuge in Yellowstone National Park. The bison visitors see today are descendants of those survivors.
Bison can weigh 2,000 pounds and 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.
Pelicans are beautiful, graceful swimmers. They have bright orange bills that can measure almost a foot long. The bird, whose diet is composed primarily of fish, uses its bill 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), at which time the birds scoop them up and eat them.
Where best to view them: In Yellowstone Park, look along the Yellowstone River between Fishing Bridge and Hayden Valley, and on Yellowstone Lake.
See a Trumpeter Swan
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 25-30 pounds, while females weigh 23-27 pounds.
They are the world's heaviest flying birds.
They are long-necked and all white, except for their black bills and webbed feet. Trumpeter swans are graceful and swim with their necks straight up.
Where to view them: 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.
Try to See a Wolf
Yellowstone Park is now the premier place to see wolves from the roadside. Wildlife biologist Doug Smith, who is in charge of the Yellowstone Wolf Project, says a person's chance for seeing wolves in Yellowstone from the roadside is really good if you're patient.
The gray wolf, Yellowstone's largest canid, hunts and kills animals that are often larger than itself. In Yellowstone, the wolves' diet is composed primarily of elk. But some have taken down bison and moose.
During the winters of 1995 and 1996, a total of 31 gray wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone Park from Canada. As of late winter 2004, there were approximately 306 wolves comprising 31 packs inhabiting the Greater Yellowstone region.
Visitors' best chances to see wolves in Yellowstone Park will be in the Lamar Valley where the park's largest pack, the Druid Peak pack, resides. More than 100,000 visitors have reported seeing wolves inside Yellostone since their reintroduction in 1995.
Still, we can't guarantee you'll see a wolf in the wild while traveling through Yellowstone Park. They aren't as plentiful as elk, bison or even moose.
However, if you really want to see a wolf, we can guarantee you'll see one at The Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center, in West Yellowstone, Mont.
You can also try seeing wolves at Yellowstone Bear World, near Rexburg, Id.
To try to see wolves while vacationing in the greater Yellowstone region, we recommend you purchase some Brunton binoculars.
Look for Moose
The largest member of the deer family, the moose is a vegetarian with an odd-looking, but charming appearance. They are dark brown in color, have a long snout and bulbous nose, and a dewlap under the throat that distinguishes them from Yellowstone's other hooved animals. With the exception of bison, moose are the largest animal in Yellowstone Park. They can weigh as much as 1,000 pounds - half a ton - and stand as high as seven feet at the shoulders.
Moose frequent streams, ponds and marshes in the summer, feeding on succulent vegetation.
Male moose have large antler racks. They show off their huge racks during the rut in the fall to display dominance over other males competing for the females.
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, due to the park's abundance of water and aquatic vegetation.
Where to see them: In Yellowstone Park, look for moose in Willow Park, between Norris Junction and Mammoth Hot Springs. Also check out the Yellowstone Lake, Fishing Bridge and Hayden Valley regions. In Grand Teton Park, the best places to look for moose are Willow Flats, Christian Pond (near Willow Flats) and around Oxbow Bend.