Field Notes

Yellowstone Wildlife

by Monica RobinsonApr 3, 2024
An American Black Bear Stands In The Rain Near Yellowstone National Park

Visiting Yellowstone National Park offers so many magnificent opportunities to witness vast, spectacular landscapes and beautiful, wondrous wildlife. Yellowstone spans over 2.2 million acres of rugged wilderness, but the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem covers a staggering 22 million acres. This massive ecosystem is of great significance; it is the last remaining nearly intact ecosystem in the Lower 48, meaning that almost every species that was here before the development of humans began is still present! This abundant and diverse ecosystem is home to some of the most charismatic megafauna that can be found in North America.

Preparing to search for wildlife in this sprawling landscape might seem like looking for a needle in a haystack, but there is an incredibly impressive concentration of animals in the ecosystem. Knowing where to look is key to enhancing your chances for sightings. Lamar Valley has earned its nickname of the “American Serengeti”, and millions of visitors flock to the area in search of the region’s famous species.

Yellowstone was founded as a national park in 1872, but the wildlife was not included in any protection plans. The legislation was solely for the land, and very enthusiastic visitors were exuberantly overhunting. There was also a government targeted elimination of wolves in the US which effectively wiped them off the landscape. After the wolf’s critical role in a healthy ecosystem was identified, the decision to reintroduce them was made. Lamar Valley is the foundation for the reintroduction of the gray wolf to the ecosystem in 1995. It is now home to several wolf packs which are now some of the most studied wolves in the world!

Elk in the Winter

Yellowstone’s Big Five

You may have heard of the “Big Five” in Africa, but did you know that we have our own Big Five in Yellowstone? As a place with plentiful megafauna, it is certainly easy to compile this list with species that everyone knows and loves! Our Big Five list is as follows:

  1. Bison
  2. Moose
  3. Elk
  4. Bear
  5. Wolf

If you ask anyone visiting the park which animal they want to see the most, chances are they will name one on this list. While Africa’s Big Five list was made to identify the most dangerous animals to hunt (lion, leopard, elephant, rhino, and buffalo), Yellowstone’s list was made to compile the most spectacular animals to view in the park.

A Bull Bison Walks Along The Yellowstone River In Hayden Valley In Yellowstone National Park
A Grey Wolf Stares Down The Photographer In Yellowstone National Park

What are the Best Opportunities to View Wildlife?

With such a vast landscape and so much to see, you may be wondering what is the best way to go about exploring Yellowstone and finding wildlife? Guided safaris are incredibly popular. Traveling in small vehicles with personal attention from a knowledgeable and passionate guide is an extremely enriching way to experience the area. You have the space to ask whatever questions you may have and discuss the elements of the park that interest you most. Our tours are equipped with high-powered, high-quality optics such as binoculars and spotting scopes to help you get the absolute best view of the wildlife that you encounter. You can watch a bear dig for roots in the dirt high up on a mountain, completely unaware of your presence, or zoom up on a nearby bison’s face close enough to count its eyelashes!

Our team of guides are made up of professional locals with a wide diversity of interesting backgrounds. Some hold degrees in zoology or wildlife biology, have experience on wildlife research projects in the field, have guided in other states or countries, or have been past park employees like park rangers. The backgrounds of our guides combined with their knowledge and passion for the region makes for a first-class guided experience full of skillful communication, fascinating information and lively storytelling.

Two Grizzly Bears Spar For Fun In Yellowstone National Park

A More In-Depth Experience: Multi-Day Tours

While a single day in Yellowstone is full of fantastical views and natural wonders, it would only be a taste of the park. Opt for one of our multi-day tour options to truly immerse yourself in the rugged wilderness. The sheer size and rich ecosystem provides endless possibilities and boundless adventures, a multi-day exploration is an exceptionally valuable way to experience one of the most beloved places in the world.

Yellowstone wildlife has routines of their own. Many species are crepuscular, meaning they are active during the dawn and dusk hours of the day. These are usually the most optimal times to be in the field ready to spot something amazing. Dawn and dusk are also ideal for landscape photography and seeing canyons, lakes, and waterfalls in a particularly beautiful light. On multi-day tours, you can take full advantage of several sessions basking in this prime time.

We offer excellent options for photography buffs! Go with an experienced photographer guide to visit the most coveted sights in the park, as well as less known gems off the beaten path. Focus more on landscapes or wildlife, that choice is completely yours.

Multi-day tours give you ample time in the field, and at a slower pace than single day tours. Spend more time out of the vehicle, take a hike or two, and spend some time breathing in the fresh mountain air while you allow yourself to truly soak it all in. With personal attention from your guide and a customized itinerary, you’ll be living out your dream visit to Yellowstone.

Book your Yellowstone tour now and get ready for the trip of a lifetime!