Wildlife Observing

Bull elk up close
Close-up view of a bull elk grazing on grass.


Valles Caldera is home to the second largest elk population in New Mexico. Other popular residents include Gunnison prairie dogs, coyotes, badgers, black bears, mountain bluebirds, and kestrels.

Habitat preferences and seasonal cycles of movement determine where a particular animal may be at a particular time. Early morning and evening hours are when animals tend to be feeding and thus are more easily seen. But remember that the numbers and variety of animals you see are largely a matter of luck and coincidence.

Wildlife Safety

Wildlife are truly wild and in their natural environment in Valles Caldera. Therefore, they will protect themselves and their young from any perceived threats. Please follow these safety tips for a positive experience for both you and the wildlife.

  • Keep a safe distance from all wildlife. If you notice a change in behavior, then you have gotten too close.
  • Use roadside pullouts when observing wildlife.
  • Use binoculars or telephoto lenses for safe viewing and to avoid disturbing wildlife.
  • Mornings and evenings are good times to observe wildlife.
  • When exploring the park, take a moment to stop, look around, and listen. A lot of wildlife can be observed in this way.

Remember, it is illegal to willfully remain near or approach wildlife, including birds, within any distance that disturbs or displaces them.

Also be sure to visit our page that provides advice about bear and mountain lion safety.


Last updated: September 5, 2023

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

PO Box 359
Jemez Springs, NM 87025


Ranger Station (for general park information)

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