Summer Wildlife Sightings in Yellowstone National Park
Photo by Barrett Hedges
Yellowstone National Park is home to more free-roaming wildlife than almost anywhere else in the Continental U.S. Almost 70 species of mammals and over 300 species of birds call Yellowstone home; everything from bears and beavers to songbirds and bald eagles can be found in the park’s meadows, valleys, and canyons or flying high in the sky and perched on tree tops.
It should come as no surprise that Yellowstone is a dream destination for both professional and amateur photographers alike. With hundreds of wildlife photographs shared on social media daily, we thought we’d put together some of our recent summer favorites to give you an idea of what you can expect to see and photograph on your next visit to Yellowstone! Photo by Barrett Hedges
Photo by Instagram user @jwshogun08
It only seems fitting that America’s first national park is home to the country’s national symbol. Bald eagles reside in Yellowstone year round, and are often seen around Yellowstone Lake in the summer months, where they prey on fish and waterfowl.
Photo by Instagram user @my_ticklefeet
This past May, President Obama signed legislation naming the North American bison as America’s first national mammal. The bison is the largest land mammal in North America and one of the most prevalent species of mammals in Yellowstone.
For most of the year, mature male bison (bulls) live alone or with other bulls—except during the rut (mating season). The rut begins in late July and goes through August. Bulls display their dominance by bellowing, wallowing, and fighting other bulls. Once a bull has found a female who is close to estrus, he will stay by her side until she is ready to mate, then moves on to find another female.
Yellowstone’s bison population fluctuates between 2,300 to 5,000 animals. There are two subpopulations of bison in the park, which are defined by where they gather for breeding. The northern herd breeds in the Lamar Valley and the high plateaus that surround the valley. The central herd breeds in Hayden Valley.
Photo by Instagram user @angelainoregon
Yellowstone is home to two species of bears: grizzly bears and black bears. The grizzly bear is typically larger than the black bear and its behavior is much more aggressive. In mid-summer, grizzly bears are most commonly seen in the meadows between Tower–Roosevelt and Canyon, and in the Hayden and Lamar valleys. Learn about essential bear safety in Yellowstone, here.
Photo by Instagram user @disney_cobbpr
While visiting Yellowstone be sure to keep an eye out for some of the park’s smaller wildlife, like the beaver. The beaver is a keystone species in Yellowstone and helps to build important habitat structures through the damming and diverting of streams for other animals in the park.
Photo by Instagram user @northeastern_roots
Coyotes are abundant throughout Yellowstone and are a common predator in Greater Yellowstone, often seen traveling through the park’s open meadows and valleys. The average life span of a coyote is 6 years, however for those that inhabit the park, their average life span can be as long as 13 years.
Photos by Instagram users @premaphotographic and @jendegtjarewsky
During the summer, elk can typically be spotted in the early morning grazing in Yellowstone’s Gibbon Meadows, Elk Park, and Lamar Valley. Although summer is a great time to see elk, the best time is during the rut, which can start any time between mid-August to the beginning of September and lasts about a month. The elk rut takes place in the northern range of Yellowstone in the Mammoth Hot Springs and Madison River areas.
Have you ever heard the bugle of the bull elk during the fall rut? It’s a thrilling, yet haunting experience that draws thousands of visitors to Yellowstone each fall. It’s an experience unlike any other in the park, with elk bugling ranging from low throaty sounds or a series of deep grunts, to high pitch whistles. Be aware that during this time, male elk can be highly aggressive and will charge cars and people. DO NOT approach on foot or in your vehicle. Keep a distance of at least 25 yards.
Safety should always be a visitors’ number one priority when visiting Yellowstone during the elk rut. And when all of the proper safety precautions are taken, it can be one of the park’s most enthralling and memorable wildlife viewing experiences.
Interested in observing the elk rut for yourself? Join us at Yellowstone National Park Lodges this fall with the Fall Elk and Wolf Discovery Package, and team up with a Yellowstone Association Institute wildlife biologist to observe Yellowstone’s marquee predator and prey species. Space is still available in late August and early September.