Yellowstone's abundant wildlife is as famous as its geysers. In the park, animals have over 3,000 square miles (over 7,500 square km) of habitat available to them, so seeing them usually involves both luck and timing. Check at visitor centers for information about recent sightings, or join one of several companies that provide wildlife watching tours in the park.
Wild animals are unpredictable and dangerous. Every year people are injured when they approach animals too closely. Animals that attack people may need to be killed. To protect yourself and the animals you come to watch, always remain at least 100 yards (91 meters) from bears or wolves, and at least 25 yards (23 meters) from all other wildlife. If visitors violate rules, rangers may close roadside pullouts to protect animals and people.
Read more about safety in Yellowstone.
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Bear Management Biologist Kerry Gunther and Park Ranger John Kerr describe some best practices for handling these potentially dangerous situations.
When to Go
Yellowstone offers amazing wildlife viewing opportunities any time of day or year. Animals tend to feed during early morning and evening and may be more visible at these times because they're up and moving around. Bears begin emerging from hibernation in March and April and can often be seen grazing in roadside meadows until the heat of summer pushes them to higher elevations (and away from roads). Winter is a great time to watch wolves because they're out of their dens (pups usually emerge in May) and easier to see on a snowy landscape. Read more about seasonal highlights in Yellowstone.
Where to Go
Animals migrate in and out of Yellowstone in response to the availability of food, so what can be seen at any given location will vary greatly with season, weather, and other factors. Below are a few popular destinations for watching some of the park's large mammals, and what might be seen during certain times of the year.
Looking for birds? Check out our tips for birding in Yellowstone.
Animals of every stripe, or spot, inhabit Yellowstone. Wildlife is all around us and sometimes in unexpected places!
All of the park's hoofed mammals migrate across the park to find the best plant growth.
Spring is a wonderful time to look for birds, as migration brings many birds back to the park.
Fish & Aquatic Species
Native fish underpin natural food webs and have great local economic significance.
Last updated: May 18, 2021