Watch Wildlife

Man with long camera lens photographs a distant grizzly bear.
Photographing a grizzly from a safe distance: stay at least 100 yards (91 meters) from wolves and bears, and at least 25 yards (23 meters) from everything else.

NPS / Jim Peaco


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.

The following tips will keep you and park animals safe:

  • Never approach or pursue an animal to take its picture: use binoculars or telephoto lenses to get a better view.
  • If an animal moves closer to you, back away to maintain a safe distance.
  • If you cause an animal to move, you're too close. It's illegal to willfully remain near or approach wildlife, including birds, within any distance that disturbs or displaces the animal.
  • Park in roadside pullouts when watching/photographing animals: do not block traffic.
  • Stay in or next to your car when watching bears. If a bear approaches or touches your car, honk your horn and drive away to discourage this behavior.
  • Do not feed wildlife or leave food where they can get it, especially for bears. Allowing bears to obtain human food even once often leads to them becoming aggressive toward people and eventually killed. Throw all garbage in bear-proof containers.
  • Do not run or make sudden movements when watching bears, as this can provoke a chase or attack. Be extra careful with children since they may run when excited.
  • Report conflicts. If you’re involved in a conflict with an animal, regardless of how minor, contact us or report it to a park ranger as soon as possible. If cell service is available, dial 911. The lives of other people, and the animal, may depend on it.
  • Watch our wildlife safety videos and see the power of large wild animals.

Read more about safety in Yellowstone.

Safe wildlife watching distances are 25 yards (elk, bison, other wildlife) shown here as two buses, and 100 yards (bears and wolves) shown here as eight buses.
Enjoy watching Yellowstone’s animals but STAY SAFE. They are WILD and DANGEROUS.
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3 minutes, 36 seconds

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.

  • Fishing Bridge: Grizzly bears
  • Hayden Valley: Bison, black bears, elk, grizzly bears, wolves
  • Lamar Valley: Bison, black bears, bighorn sheep, elk, grizzly bears, mule deer, pronghorn, wolves
  • Mammoth Hot Springs: Bison, black bears, elk, mule deer
  • Madison: Bison, elk
  • North Entrance: Bighorn sheep, bison, elk, pronghorn
  • Northeast Entrance: Moose
  • Old Faithful: Bison, elk
  • South Entrance: Moose
  • West Thumb: Elk, moose

Looking for birds? Check out our tips for birding in Yellowstone.

a bison calf

Animals of every stripe, or spot, inhabit Yellowstone. Wildlife is all around us and sometimes in unexpected places!

Pronghorn graze across the sagebrush-steppe.

All of the park's hoofed mammals migrate across the park to find the best plant growth.

A striped black & white bird with a red patch on the back of it's head perches on a tree trunk.

Spring is a wonderful time to look for birds, as migration brings many birds back to the park.

An underwater view of a spotted fish with a red slash on its neck and side swims above pebbles
Native Fish Species

Native fish underpin natural food webs and have great local economic significance.

A tiger salamander

Amphibians are valuable indicators of stressors such as disease or climate change.

The head of a brown spotted snake among grass

There are six reptile species in Yellowstone.

Last updated: March 13, 2024

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

PO Box 168
Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190-0168



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