Valles Caldera is home to the second largest elk population in New Mexico. Other popular residents include Gunnison prairie dogs, coyotes, badgers, black bears, Eastern mountain bluebirds, and golden eagles.
Habitat preferences and seasonal cycles of movement determine, in a general sense, 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.
Wild animals, especially females with young, are unpredictable and dangerous. Keep a safe distance from all wildlife. Please use roadside pullouts when viewing wildlife. Use binoculars or telephoto lenses for safe viewing and to avoid disturbing wildlife. By being sensitive to its needs, you will see more of an animal's natural behavior and activity. If you cause an animal to move, you are too close! It is illegal to willfully remain near or approach wildlife, including birds, within ANY distance that disturbs or displaces the animal.
Valles Caldera also has a wide variety of plant life. In the spring and early summer, wildflowers appear in abundance. They are well worth viewing, and they are usually safer to approach.
Also be sure to visit our page that provides advice about bear and mountain lion safety.
A backcountry vehicle permit is required if you wish to drive your personal vehicle into the backcountry before beginning your wildlife viewing adventure.
Last updated: February 15, 2017