Ten Animals You May (or May Not) See in Yellowstone
Yellowstone National Park is not only a popular tourist destination for those looking to explore the great outdoors, but it is also home to the biggest concentration of mammals in the lower 48 states. Here you can catch bison, elk, black bears, hares, and much more roaming freely throughout the park. Head out on one of the parks guided tours such as Yellowstone Nature Tours, Wake up to Wildlife or Yellowstone Wild where you will learn all about the animals of Yellowstone and how to observe them safely!
The Chances are Good! (Likely to See)
The most abundant large animal found within Yellowstone, Elk summer herd sizes can reach up to 10,000-20,000. Elk bulls are often the most photographed in Yellowstone due to their impressive antler size which can grow to just under 6 feet wide and weigh 30 pounds!
Where to see: In the summer, Gibbon Meadows, Elk Park & Lamar Valley; in fall and winter, the majority of Elk will migrate to the Northern Range
Bison have lived in the part for a long time, in fact, since prehistoric times! Yellowstone bison make up the nation’s largest remaining bison population on public land. Males can grow up to 2,000 pounds while females usually weigh in around 1,000, but don’t let their size fool you, bison can run up to 35 miles per hour and jump heights of over 5 feet!
Where to see: Hayden and Lamar Valleys and in the grasslands in the summer
The snowshoe hare is commonly seen in some parts of Yellowstone. They have large hind feet which makes travelling in the snow a breeze, while their winter white coat provides the perfect camouflage for hiding from predators.
Where to see: Norris Geyser Basin
When in Yellowstone, there is a good chance you might just see a black bear or two, the park is actually one of the only areas south of Canada where black bears co-exist with grizzlies. Though called “Black Bears” only 50% are actually black, with the remaining colors being brown, blond or cinnamon.
Where to see: Tower and Mammoth areas
Intelligent and agile, coyotes are not only found throughout urban areas and the wilderness but are quite abundant in Yellowstone National Park. Coyotes are quite vocal; they can be heard most frequently at dusk and dawn.
Where to see: Grasslands such as meadows and fields
Pull out the Binoculars (You Might See)
Most commonly seen in the summer months where an average of 1,900 mule deer reside—this species has incredible senses that help to detect predators such as coyotes, cougars and wolves, allowing them to quickly flee danger.
Where to see: Throughout the park in the summer, migrating to the North Entrance in the winter.
The tallest of the deer family, the incredibly long legs of the moose allow them to wade in rivers and deep snow and above all—run fast! It takes a lot of food to fuel these large mammals, adult in the summer consume on average 26 pounds of food per day!
Where to see: In the marshy areas of meadows and along bodies of water
Though their numbers fluctuate, some wolf-packs still call Yellowstone National Park home. They are highly social with an average pack size of 10. Wolves who reside in the park live on average 1-2 years longer than those that live outside the park due to Greater Yellowstone’s commitment to their protection!
Where to see: Most often the Northern Range
Cross Your Fingers But… It’s Unlikely You’ll See
Bobcats are mostly solitary mammals that are most active at sunrise and sunset. Though bobcats do call Yellowstone National Park home—there impeccable “cat” like ability for hiding means they are rarely seen by tourists.
Where to see: Though rare, bobcats can sometimes be seen near rivers and rocky areas
Though they may be the largest of the cat species that call Yellowstone National Park home, as well as one of the top predators—they are very rarely seen. Experienced hunters—cougars prefer rocky terrain and wooded areas where they can quickly escape their competition.
Where to see: Though chances are slim you’ll spot a cougar, if you happen to spot one, they’ll most likely be in rockier areas of the park.
The animals that inhabit Yellowstone National Park certainly provide the perfect photo opportunity, but it is important to always practice safety when observing wildlife! Hike in groups, keep your distance and do not feed the animals!