With over 2000 species of animals and more than 50 mammalian species, Yellowstone National Park is one of the best places for wildlife watching.
Whether you’re a passionate naturalist or just someone looking to catch a glimpse of some adventure, this incredible park has something to offer everyone.
However, timing is everything when it comes to enjoying the best that Yellowstone has to offer. So if you’re wondering when exactly is the best time to visit Yellowstone in order to see wildlife, our article will provide all the answers you need.
Read on and discover why springtime is absolutely ideal for exploration and spotting fascinating animals at Yellowstone.
Best time to visit Yellowstone for wildlife:
The best time to visit Yellowstone National Park for wildlife is during the months of April through June, and from September to November.
These seasons provide a fascinating opportunity to witness the park’s diverse and abundant wildlife in their natural habitats, engaging in various seasonal activities.
Let’s dive into some facts and reasons that make these months ideal.
Seasonal Activity Peak:
Spring (April to June) is the prime time for animal activity as it marks the awakening of the park after the long winter months.
During this period, animals venture out in search of food and engage in mating behaviors.
Similarly, the fall season (September to November) is also ideal for observing various wildlife activities.
Bears, for instance, can be seen actively feeding in preparation for hibernation, while elk and deer are often sighted during their annual rut as they begin mating.
During the spring and fall seasons, the weather is more temperate, paving the way for greater accessibility for tourists.
This significantly increases the chances of encountering wildlife in their natural environment as opposed to the challenging winter conditions or the hot and dry summer months.
Bird enthusiasts can witness the spectacle of Yellowstone’s avian life during the migration seasons.
Spring welcomes the arrival of up to 60% of the park’s 285 bird species, including trumpeter swans, ospreys, and eagles.
Additionally, fall is the perfect time to spot waterfowl like ducks and geese as they migrate south.
Spring is the season of new life, making it a wonderful time to observe baby animals.
Young bison, elk, and pronghorn are typically born during this time, providing a unique chance to watch these youngsters learn to navigate their world under the watchful eyes of their mothers.
The spring and fall seasons not only provide excellent viewing opportunities for Yellowstone’s wildlife but also showcase the park’s breathtaking scenery.
Springtime sees the blooming of wildflowers and melting snow, while fall brings a stunning palette of colors as leaves change from green to vibrant shades of red, orange, and yellow.
Places to go for great wildlife viewing experiences:
Here are just a few of the places you should visit if you want to get up close and personal with Yellowstone’s wild side.
Mammoth Hot Springs:
Mammoth Hot Springs is one of the most popular destinations in Yellowstone, and it’s easy to see why.
This unique area features an array of terraced hot springs that are colored a striking white-gray hue due to their high mineral content.
The area is also home to a variety of wildlife including elk, bison, coyote, moose, bear, and even wolves. It’s a great place for wildlife watching as well as photography.
Grand Prismatic Spring:
Grand Prismatic Spring is another must-see destination in Yellowstone.
This natural wonder is a large hot spring that spills out into a wide pool surrounded by rainbow-colored rings of microbial mats.
The colors are due to the different types of bacteria living in different temperatures around the edges of the pool.
The area is also populated with elk, bison, deer, and other large animals making it an ideal spot for wildlife viewing opportunities.
Lamar Valley is considered one of the best areas in all of Yellowstone for viewing wildlife up close.
It’s home to an abundance of large animals including elk, bison, bears, wolves, coyotes and more.
As well as being a great spot for spotting animals from afar or taking pictures from your car window – you can also take advantage of guided tours which will teach you about how these creatures interact with each other in their natural habitats.
How to stay safe around wild animals in Yellowstone?
For a safe and enjoyable Yellowstone experience, it’s essential to learn how to stay safe around wildlife and understand the precautions to take when observing these fascinating creatures.
Keep a Safe Distance
When watching Yellowstone’s wildlife, it’s essential to maintain a safe distance from the animals.
The National Park Service recommends staying at least 100 yards away from bears and wolves, and a minimum of 25 yards away from all other animals, such as bison, elk, and deer.
This may seem overly cautious, but the reality is that wildlife can be unpredictable and may act aggressively if they feel threatened or cornered.
By staying a safe distance away, you’ll minimize the risk of an animal attack while also respecting the animals and their natural habitat.
Do Not Approach or Feed Wildlife
It may be tempting to get closer to wildlife for a better view or photo opportunity, but this can be dangerous for both you and the animal.
Approaching wildlife can stress the animals, disrupt their natural behaviors, and potentially provoke an aggressive reaction.
To ensure your safety and the well-being of the animals, never approach or feed them.
If an animal becomes accustomed to humans or receiving food from them, they may become aggressive and would ultimately need to be removed from the park or euthanized.
Properly Store Food and Scented Items
Animals, especially bears, have an incredible sense of smell and can be easily attracted to human food or scented items.
To avoid attracting wildlife to your campsite or picnic area, always store your food, cooking equipment, and scented items in bear-resistant containers or lockers.
Never leave food or other attractants unattended and dispose of garbage properly using designated receptacles.
By properly storing food and related items, you’re helping to keep wildlife and yourself safe.
Hiking Safety Tips
Hiking is a popular way to explore the beauty of Yellowstone, but it can also place you in close proximity to wildlife.
To reduce your chances of an unexpected wildlife encounter while hiking, make noise to alert animals of your presence, carry bear spray, and consider hiking in groups.
Stay on the designated trail, and if you do spot wildlife, be sure to stay a safe distance away and avoid disturbing them.
Also, be aware of signs indicating recent wildlife activity or sightings, such as tracks or scat, and remain cautious in areas where visibility is limited.
Know What to Do in Case of an Encounter
In the unlikely event that you find yourself in a close encounter with a wild animal in Yellowstone, knowing how to respond is critical.
If you come across a bear, speak calmly and firmly while slowly backing away never run. Carrying bear spray and knowing how to use it effectively can be a life-saving tool.
For other large animals like bison or elk, maintain distance, and give the animal room to move.
If the animal feels trapped, it may react defensively, leading to a dangerous situation for both you and the animal.