[Mountain] Lions, Tiger [Beetles], and [Grizzly] Bears, Oh My! Spotting the Wildlife of Yellowstone

by Vibrant Management


Apr 14, 2020

If you’ve booked our Yellowstone and Grand Teton Small Group Tour or the Yellowstone and Grand Teton Private Custom Tour, you’ll spend three days exploring the vibrant natural oasis that is Yellowstone National Park.


America’s first national park, Yellowstone attracts millions of visitors from across the country and around the world each year. While many are drawn to the famous geysers and stunning views, the park’s incredible wildlife is also a special part of every visit. Keep reading to learn about a few of the species you might be lucky enough to see when you visit Yellowstone National Park.


Grizzly Bears

One of Yellowstone’s most popular animals is the grizzly bear. Known as brown bears in Canada and Alaska, these large bears are found only in a few isolated areas in the lower 48 states, which makes the park all the more important for protecting them. In fact, Yellowstone and northwest Montana are the only areas south of Canada that still maintain a large population of grizzly bears.


If you see a grizzly bear in the park, take plenty of pictures, but keep your distance. Unless you’re sitting safely in your car, you should always stay at least 100 yards away from them.

Black Bears

Grizzly bears aren’t the only bear species that make their home in the park. The black bear, the most common bear species in the U.S., also call Yellowstone home. While more common than their larger cousin, black bears are a symbol of the park for many visitors. This is thanks in part to rangers allowing visitors to feed them from the 1910s until the 1960s, a practice that’s not only illegal but also very dangerous.


Another popular symbol of Yellowstone and the rest of the American West is the bison or buffalo. Millions of bison once roamed the west, until pioneers hunted them to near extinction. Yellowstone is the only place in the United States where bison have lived continuously since ancient times. It’s also one of the last wild herds in the country.


While bison may look harmless, they have been known to charge and sometimes injure visitors. Keep your distance and never approach, touch, or feed bison in the park.

Mountain Lions

While there may be lions lurking in Yellowstone, most visitors would never know. That’s because mountain lions, also known as cougars or pumas, are very shy. They live and hunt in the park’s rocky terrain, hiding in trees or among rocks. In the early 1900s, the species was likely hunted to extinction in the park. While they have been making a comeback since the 1980s, they remain a rare and special sight in the park. If you do get lucky enough to spot one, be sure to maintain a safe distance, both for this large cat’s safety and for your own!

Gray Wolf

Wolves were once native to most of North America, covering a range from the artic to Mexico. But like the mountain lion, habitat loss and hunting drove them to near extinction in the early 1900s. The gray wolf was reintroduced to Yellowstone in 1995, and since then, their numbers have continued to grow. The entire ecosystem of the park benefits from the presence of wolves, who are being studied extensively in the park.


One of the most common sights in the park is the elk. Yellowstone is home to between 10,000 and 20,000 elk during the summer months. While their large numbers are being managed by the wolves, mountain lions, and bears that hunt them, their presence does mean competition for food with smaller or less common species like mule deer and bison.


While they look similar to elk, moose are much larger, and much less common, than their distant relative. Moose are the largest of the deer species in the park. Numbering fewer than 200 in the large national park, moose are a rare sight. Your best chance of spotting one is in a marshy meadow area, lakeshores, or on river banks.

Bighorn Sheep

Another fairly rare sight is the bighorn sheep. Particularly susceptible to threats like habitat loss and disease, there are between 10 and 13 bands of sheep in the park today. Their largest concentration is on Mount Everts.

Mule Deer

A rare sight in the winter, mule deer populations swell to nearly 2,000 individuals in the summer, then drop to fewer than 400 in the winter. The park is home to both mule deer and white-tailed deer. While they are different species, they look very similar and are often seen grazing in the same areas within the park.


You won’t find any oversized striped cats in the park. But Yellowstone is home to the tiger beetle, one of the fastest land animals on earth!

Spotting Wildlife in Yellowstone National Park

These species are just a small number of the ones you might be lucky enough to spot in the park. 


When you join one of our luxury tours, your experienced guide can help you find the best spots for watching wildlife! Book your summer adventure with Utah Luxury Tours today!


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