America’s Serengeti. The animals of Yellowstone National Park make up the largest concentration of wildlife in the contiguous United States. Nowhere in the lower United States is there a better chance to catch the interaction between predator and prey relationships on such a large scale. Now realistically is there a chance you will see wolves taking down an elk, no. However, there is a great chance of seeing some of the most famous animals in North America. The animals of Yellowstone include bears both black and grizzly, wolves, moose, big horn sheep, elk, and of course bison.
My first trip to Yellowstone National Park happened around the time I was five. The great family road trip. Unfortunately, I do not remember much of the trip but some things I do remember are the animals we saw there. The animals of Yellowstone can have that lasting impact on a young child. Some of those fond memories include a large moose that decided to lay down in the clover behind our cabin, seeing what we thought was an eagle but probably an osprey in flight swooping down to catch fish in a river, and big horn sheep climbing a rocky cliff.
Each successive trip to the park has netted me a chance to see most of the animals that call the place home. While I have not seen all of them I have had the chance to see a lot. Every trip, each time is as special as the first. In particular, our last trip to Yellowstone we were feeling a little bit of a bust because we had not seen a bear yet. Don’t get me wrong we loved our time in the park and it was ending up as a special trip. However not seeing a bear was leaving us with a feeling of wanting. Then as we were driving out of the park on the East Entrance Road we came across a mother grizzly and her cub. That encounter was the icing on our vacation cake.
Animals of Yellowstone (Quick Facts from the National Park Service website)
- 67 different mammals live here, including many small mammals.
- As of 2014, between 674 and 839 grizzly bears live in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.
- Black bears are common.
- Gray wolves were restored in 1995. As of December 2014, 95 live primarily in the park.
- Wolverine and lynx, which require large expanses of undisturbed habitat, live here.
- Seven native ungulate species—elk, mule deer, bison, moose, bighorn sheep, pronghorn, and white-tailed deer—live here.
- Nonnative mountain goats have colonized northern portions of the park.
One of the great things about Yellowstone National Park is each trip is unique. A visitor never knows what might be just around the bend. A visitor must have a sense of adventure when seeing the park. Be ready for the unknown. Otherwise they will walk away disappointed. Karen and I have never had the same visit twice. The first time we went we purposely looked for wildlife and found it in abundance. Several bear sightings, wolves in the Lamar Valley, baby elk and bison. The last few times have been more about the park’s geological features, dropping our number of animal sightings. The duration of your trip and what you plan to see will likely determine the number and species of animals you spot. The main thing is don’t get disappointed if you don’t get to see all the animals you want to see. Just enjoy the ride.
While anywhere in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem has the chance to yield spectacular sightings of animals, there are a few areas of the park that give a better chance of spotting some of the free-range wildlife on display.
Top Spots to see the Animals of Yellowstone
- Lamar Valley
- Hayden Valley
- Northeast Side of Yellowstone Lake
- Swan Lake Flats
Yellowstone is a spectacular park and part of that is seeing the incredible animals of Yellowstone. Hearing the thundering herds of bison, bears and wolves on the prowl, or a bulk elk establishing a harem are just some of the experiences that you could be having in Yellowstone National Park. Though those experiences come with responsibility. Wild animals are unpredictable especially if they have young with them. Keep a safe distance from all wildlife. Never approach bears or wolves within 100 yards and 25 yards of other wildlife. All of Yellowstone is bear country so be bear aware and prepared especially if hiking any trails. Remember if you cause an animal to move and take notice of you, you are too close. A safe trip is always a better trip.