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I am a Denver-based writer, travel lover, and author of The Drive North and Destination Paranormal. I have several other books in the works, including fiction.

Tips on Spotting Wildlife in Yellowstone

A black bear and her cub.

A black bear and her cub.

It’s easy to spot wildlife in Yellowstone National Park. Seriously. Animals are everywhere. You just need to know when and where to look. That’s where I come in with a few tips on how to spot wildlife in Yellowstone…

5. Plan Ahead

Before I left for Yellowstone National Park, I watched websites that would show me places where animals frequented, and the last time they were spotted. Certain species are more commonly found in certain areas of the park, so it helps to know where to look. For this I used Yellowstone Wildlife, and it worked wonders. I arrived with a good idea of where I could find the animals I really wanted to see, instead of groping around the park in the hopes I’d randomly run into something. I did that on my last visit, and it’s a big pain with difficult results.

Sometimes the animals force you to slow down whether you want to or not!

Sometimes the animals force you to slow down whether you want to or not!

4. Slow Down

You’re on vacation. Slow down. Relax. If you do, you have a better chance at spotting an animal than if you’re whizzing on by way above the speed limit. There were a few times I know I would have missed something if I were driving five miles per hour over the limit, as I normally do, opposed to five miles under. Why’s this? Well, it’s simply because…

Pronghorn deer stick out on a green landscape

Pronghorn deer stick out on a green landscape

3. Animals Blend In

Look for inconsistencies in the terrain. If you’re driving through a green area, like the Lamar or Hayden Valleys, look for brown. If you see brown amongst a sea of green, it’s likely a bison. Or an elk. Or maybe even a bear. Who knows. But odds are it’s not part of the landscape, particularly if it’s moving. So look for changes in the norm of your surroundings.

2. Know When To Look

No matter how much you plan in advance, how much you slow down, or how hard you look, you’re likely not going to see certain animals if you don’t know when to look. Most often the best times to see some of the most popular animals, like the bears, is at sunrise or sunset. They’re out at these times feeding, so driving around in the middle of day won’t be as advantageous as other times. It’s possible to spot wildlife then as well, especially bison – they’re everywhere at all times – but others won’t be as easy to find. So, go back to tip number five, and do a little research before you go and learn when the best times are to find the animals you’re most interested in seeing.

If it weren't for this herd of photographers, I would have never seen...

If it weren’t for this herd of photographers, I would have never seen…

1. Look For People

See a row of cars pulled over on the side of the road? Or how about a ranger? Then odds are there are animals nearby. So while you’re looking for wildlife, the best chance at spotting some would be by looking for your fellow visitors. Just be sure to be safe: follow any ranger instructions, follow park regulations when it comes to wildlife, use the traffic pullouts, and pay attention to your surroundings. If you don’t, odds are someone barreling down the road in a big pickup truck isn’t, either. They’re scanning the hillside to see whatever animal you’ve spotted. And so they’ve now lost sight of you, and could be just as dangerous to your wellbeing as if you wandered in between a momma bear and her cub. Not good. So keep an open eye and pay attention to your surroundings.

Two fox kits play near Tower Roosevelt as mom looks on.

Two fox kits playing near Tower Roosevelt as mom looks on.

Do you have another tip on how to spot wildlife? What about a favorite place in or out of Yellowstone? Then please share. Thanks!

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3 Comments on “Tips on Spotting Wildlife in Yellowstone”

  1. Traveling Ted (@travelingted) June 30, 2013 at 5:23 pm #

    Great tips for Yellowstone or anywhere. Night driving is also a good tip, but the problem with that is you are not able to take photographs.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Driving Yellowstone’s North Loop | Jason's Travels - July 15, 2013

    […] road is only 12 miles (19 km) across, so it’s a nothing drive. But, as I’ve said before, slow down and take it easy. You’re not likely to see a lot of wildlife on this road, but you […]

  2. Five Things to See in Yellowstone National Park | Jason's Travels - August 12, 2013

    […] and much, much more. They’re all there, right in one little, convenient area. You just need to, as I said before, slow down, keep your eyes open, and give them plenty of space. If you do that, you might just have […]

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