A small, black and white bird perches sideways on a tree trunk.
A pygmy nuthatch perched sideways on a tree.



The high-elevation ecosystems of Valles Caldera National Preserve, ranging from 8,000 to 11,254 feet high, combine abundant rainfall, mixed-conifer forests, and deep, rich soils to support a great diversity of wildlife including several thousand elk and healthy populations of mountain lions, bears, bobcats, and coyotes.

Valles Caldera is home to 3 threatened and endangered animal species:

Additionally, at least 40 bird species of conservation concern are known to occupy Valles Caldera. The park's central location within the Jemez Mountains provides landscape connectivity among a mosaic of protected lands like Bandelier National Monument and the Santa Fe National Forest. This ensures that wildlife corridors and habitat are preserved across manmade boundary lines for holistic ecosystem protection and function.

Wildlife Viewing

Wildlife viewing at Valles Caldera is a highly memorable experience. While elk are the most popular animal to observe in the park, visitors may also delight in witnessing the shenanigans of a Gunnison's prairie dog colony, the intense concentration of a coyote on the hunt, and the symphony of birdsong on an early-morning hike. Please remember to maintain a safe and respectful distance when watching wildlife. If their behavior changes because of your presence, you're too close!

Valles Caldera National Preserve is one of the American Southwest's premier wildlife viewing destinations. Learn more on our Wildlife Observing page.

An elk with large antlers walks through a montane grassland.

Approximately 2,500 elk call Valles Caldera home.

Two prairie dogs stand next to each other in a grassy environment.
Prairie Dogs

Gunnison's prairie dogs are many park visitors' first wildlife encounter.

A coyote climbs a grassy slope.

Coyotes are frequently spotted hunting near the park's Entrance Station.

A black bear with blonde fur walks through a wooded area.
Black Bear

Black bears can be spotted during the summer months.

A mountain lion walks across a rocky outcrop against a blue sky.
Mountain Lions

The Jemez Mountains provide great habitat for mountain lions.

A white weasel pokes its head out of a rocky crevice.
Long-tailed Weasel

Long-tailed weasels are tiny but mighty hunters common to the park.

A tiny rodent with round ears rests on a rock with green leaves in its mouth.

A climate-sensitive species, pika live in the highest elevations of Valles Caldera.

A black, gray, and buff-colored wolf trots through a brushy landscape.
Mexican Wolves

Mexican wolves are native to Valles Caldera, passing through as recently as December 2023.


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Last updated: February 20, 2024

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

090 Villa Louis Martin Dr.
Jemez Springs, NM 87025


Ranger Station (for general park information)

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