Yellowstone is as popular for its diverse wildlife as it is for its thermal features. It is home to the largest concentration of mammals in the lower 48 states , including elk, bears, bison, wolves, and bighorn sheep. If you want to plan a visit to the park to marvel at the wildlife, here is a guide to where you will have the best chance of seeing each type of animal.
Disclaimer: Wildlife in Yellowstone are dangerous and should not be approached. Every year visitors get injured by wildlife, and for your own safety and the animals’ safety be responsible and follow park rules.
Amount of Luck Needed: Moderate
There are roughly 717 grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (up from 136 in 1975)  and seeing a bear is the holy grail for many visitors of Yellowstone. Grizzly bears live in virtually every part of the park but one of the best places to see one along the East Entrance Road in the mornings and evenings in the early summer. As the summer progresses, the bears often move to higher elevations to eat moths found underneath rocks on scree-covered slopes.
Yellowstone National Park requires visitors to keep a distance of at least 100 yards (300 feet) from any bear. If in the backcountry, carry bear spray and keep as far away as possible.
Hotspot: Lamar Valley
Amount of Luck Needed: A Lot
Wolves were completely exterminated from Yellowstone in 1926, but from 1995 to 1997, 41 gray wolves from northern Montana and Canada were reintroduced to the park . Since then, the numbers have multiplied to 108 in the national park and 528 in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.
The most popular place to spot wolves is during dawn and dusk in Lamar Valley. High-power binoculars or a spotting scope and a bit of luck is needed to spot these elusive predators.
Amount of Luck Needed: Very Little
Bison, the national mammal, and the largest extant land mammals in North America, are abundant in the valleys of Yellowstone. Herds of bison frequently cause traffic jams in Hayden Valley.
Yellowstone is the only place in the USA where bison have lived continuously since prehistoric times . Before westward expansion, bison roamed in great numbers across the Great Plains, but in the matter of several decades were nearly exterminated.
Hotspot: Mammoth Hot Springs
Amount of Luck Needed: Little
One of Yellowstone’s best attractions in the fall is the elk rut around the village of Mammoth. A herd of elk – often with large bulls – can often seen bugling in the front lawns of Mammoth’s residential and administrative buildings. Elk during the rut can be especially dangerous and should not be approached.
Hotspot: Grand Teton National Park*
Amount of Luck Needed: Lots in Yellowstone, or moderate in Grand Teton
Moose live in Yellowstone, but your chances of seeing them are much higher in nearby Grand Teton National Park. Moose tend to love boggy wetlands full of willows which are abundant near Willow Flats Overlook near Jackson Lake Lodge. If you still want to try looking in Yellowstone, Soda Butte Creek might be a good place to start.
Nearby Wildlife Museums
Recording Your Own
Do you want to keep track or share where you make an animal sighting? The Natural Atlas App makes it easy to take geotagged notes allowing you to pick from thousands of animal species (and more).
– Animal sightings automatically get synced to the website (click here to see an example).
– View the most detailed map of Yellowstone ever on your phone
– Viewing the map in the app normally requires an internet connection (which is lacking in Yellowstone), but by Upgrading to a Pro Subscription you can download the map for any large area you want and it will be available regardless of the cell service
- Offline Maps
- 100+ Activities and 45,000+ Presets (Plants, Animals, …)