Wildlife Viewing

"...We get exactly as much in hunting with the camera as in hunting with the rifle; and of the two, the former is the kind of sport which calls, for the higher degree of skill, patience, resolution, and knowledge of the life history of the animal sought." Theodore Roosevelt, 1901

 

Theodore Roosevelt National Park has abundant watchable wildlife. What you see depends on the season, your patience and luck. Binoculars are helpful, but not essential.

Remember: all wildlife in the park are wild and potentially dangerous. Keep a safe distance from all wildlife. Some animals like bison, feral horses, and prairie dogs may seem tame, but they are wild animals and can be dangerous. People who get too close to them may be gored by antlers and horns, trampled by hooves, or bitten by sharp teeth. One should not get closer than 100 yards to bison and feral horses or closer than 25 yards to other wildlife. Use binoculars, spotting scopes, or telephoto lenses for safe viewing and to avoid disturbing them. If an animal moves away from you as you approach, you are too close! Respect all wildlife. The park is their home.

Also:

  • Keep pets in your vehicle. Pets may scare wildlife, and wild animals can hurt pets.
  • Use of wildlife calls and spotlights is illegal. They stress animals and alter their natural behavior.
  • Drive slowly. Watch for animals crossing the road. Deer, elk, pronghorn, and feral horses are seldom alone. If you see one animal, look for others that may follow.

Below is a list of some of the animals you might find in the park and some guidelines for where and when to look. What will you discover on your visit?

Bison

Bison roam throughout the North and South units of the park, and most visitors see them as they drive the park roads. They should be given a wide berth if met along the trail. Check at the visitor centers for recent sightings!

Mule deer

More common than their white-tailed cousins, mule deer are often seen between dusk and dawn anywhere along the park road in open areas. They usually seek shade in dense juniper groves during the heat of the day.

White-tailed deer

Deer prefer thick wooded areas and river bottomlands and may be seen in the campgrounds and picnic areas in the evening and early morning hours.

Elk

In the South Unit only, elk are most often seen feeding in early morning or evening on open grassland sites in the Buck Hill area and in the southeastern quarter of the park visible from I-94. Elk generally seek the shade of hardwood and juniper draws during the day.

Feral horses

Feral horses inhabit the South Unit only. Originally descended from domestic stock, horses are maintained in the park today as a cultural resource. They are often visible from the Scenic Loop Drive and from I-94.

Longhorns

A small demonstration herd is kept in the North Unit as a cultural resource. They may be spotted around mile marker two of the scenic drive as they graze across the open grassland.

Pronghorns

The fastest land animal in North America, pronghorn are often sighted in the greater Little Missouri Grasslands. Small groups or individuals will occasionally enter the park, so keep your eyes open!

Coyotes

These wild canines are more often heard than seen. Listen for their howl after night falls or look for them in prairie dog towns during twilight hours.

Bobcats

Consider yourself very lucky if you see a bobcat! Only a few are seen each summer. Look for them on the barren rocky slopes, especially at night.

Badgers

Badgers feed on rodents and are most often seen near prairie dog towns at dawn or dusk.

Beavers

These aquatic rodents may be seen in the North Unit's Squaw Creek and along the Little Missouri River.

Porcupines

Porcupines are often found in trees and bushes feeding on twigs and cambium. They come to the ground more often at night and are frequently observed along the park roads.

Prairie dogs

The park road passes through three large prairie dog towns in the South Unit. No dog towns can be seen from the North Unit road; the nearest is a one-mile hike from the Caprock-Coulee parking area - be sure to follow the signs.

Golden eagles

Always check the sky for glimpses of soaring golden eagles along the Little Missouri River floodplain and at the North Unit's River Bend Overlook.

Birds

Many different species of birds inhabit the park campgrounds where there is plenty of food and shelter in the thick brush and trees adjacent to the Little Missouri River. Mornings and evenings provide the best viewing times. It is also good birding where two habitat zones meet such as the edge of the trees and the grasslands.

Snakes

Snakes enjoy the tall grass and shrubs of the prairie ecosystem. It is also common to see them on the park roads, so please drive carefully. The park is home to one species of venomous snake (prairie rattlesnake), but bullsnakes and racers are most commonly seen.

Questions? If you have any questions about viewing wildlife, please stop in any of the visitor centers and ask a ranger. Please remember to view wildlife from a safe distance. All wildlife is protected in the park and cannot be hunted, fed or harassed. Come often and enjoy the unique opportunity to view wildlife in their natural habitat!


Did You Know?