Yellowstone is one of the most popular national parks in the United States and is a destination that should be on everyone’s bucket list. Yellowstone is particularly famous for two things: having more than half of the world’s geysers and for being perhaps the greatest hotspot for American wildlife. Yellowstone is worth visiting for its landscapes and hydrothermal activity, as well as its diverse and rich biodiversity.
Yellowstone is one of the best places to go on a safari outside of Africa, with some valleys like Lamar Valley being noted hotspots of wildlife. Remember that animal behavior changes with the seasons (birds fly south, the musk season, hibernation, etc.), so plan in advance and arrange a visit around the behavioral cycles of the animals of Yellowstone. Out of all the wildlife in Yellowstone National Park to see, these species are some of the most amazing to look out for.
10 Gray Wolves: A Successful Reintroduction Story
A pack of wolves in snow
Gray Wolves were hunted to extinction in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (including but early Park Rangers). That had the effect of elk and other herbivore populations being uncontrolled, which in turn had an adverse effect on the environment.
Wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone and are considered one of the biggest conservation reintroduction successes in the region and they number above 500.
9 Brown Bear: See America’s Grizzly
Grizzly bears in Great Bear Rainforest
While Grizzlies (aka brown bears) are common in Alaska, they are only found in a few places in the 48 contiguous states. There are a few places to see them (such as Montana and Washington State), but the best is arguably Yellowstone National Park. They are now one of the star residents of the park and by far one of the most interesting animals in Yellowstone to see.
8 Mountain Lions: The Elusive Big Kitties
Mountain Lion In the Snow
Mountain lions (or cougars) range through much of the Western half of North America, and they are resident in Yellowstone National Park. Out of all the animals on this list, they are perhaps the most elusive and the hardest to see in the wild. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be seen; keep a sharp eye out for them when exploring the park.
7 Bison: Back From The Brink
Bison Marching In Winter in Yellowstone
Bison once roamed the Great Plains in massive numbers, but they were hunted right to the edge of extinction. Fortunately, their population was saved, and now, bison cling on in a number of places – notably in Yellowstone. The population of these mighty beasts in Yellowstone fluctuates from 2,300 to 5,000. Today, they’re one of the most majestic animal species in Yellowstone National Park to spot.
6 Moose: The Largest Deer Species
A male moose in snow
Moose are famous in Alaska and Canada, but there are some places in the 48 Contiguous states where they roam south across the Canadian border. They are the largest deer species in the world and are another of the great animals visitors should be on the lookout for while visiting Yellowstone.
There are less than 200 moose in Yellowstone, and sadly, their populations have declined in the last 40 years due to habitat loss.
5 Elk: The Most Common Big Animal
Bull Elk with full antlers
Come during the musk (mating season) and hear the bellows of the Elk. Elk are preyed on by wolves and are the most abundant of the large mammals found in Yellowstone. During the summer, there are an estimated 10,000 to 20,000 elk divided into six or seven herds (and most move to lower elevations outside of the park in the winter).
4 Black Bears: A Common Sight In Yellowstone
Black Bear sitting in a field
Black Bears may be rather common in North America compared to Brown Bears, but they are still a worthy sight. Come and see a healthy population of Black Bears in Yellowstone. Come at the right time of year, and visitors may even be able to see a mother with her cubs (remember to always keep a respectful distance since mother bears can become hostile if they feel their babies are threatened, as can any bear, for that matter).
Black Bears are a common sight in Yellowstone (but remember to never feed them).
3 Bald Eagle: The Symbol Of The United States
Bald Eagle Flying By A Ferry
It is easy to forget that Yellowstone is full of many species of bird life (some of which only live in Yellowstone seasonally). One of the most popular birds in the US is the Bald Eagle, which ranges from Mexico to Alaska. In Yellowstone, they mostly feed on fish.
Unfortunately, their numbers declined dramatically in the 1900s, but today, they enjoy a high level of protection.
2 Beaver: A Keystone Species
A Beaver in the wild
Beavers have an outsized effect on the ecosystem by damming and diverting waterways and felling trees. As of 2021, there are an estimated 101 colonies of beavers in Yellowstone. Beavers are listed here as one of the largest and more charismatic of the rodents of Yellowstone (other rodents include chipmunks, squirrels, gophers, voles, and marmots).
1 Bighorn Sheep: The Wild Sheep Of North America
Bighorn Sheep standing on a rocky outcrop
While Bighorn Sheep are widely spread across the Rocky Mountains, they are largely restricted to small and fragments populations. These populations are quite vulnerable. In Yellowstone, they form between 10 and 13 interbreeding bands living in the steep terrain in the upper Yellowstone River drainage (including outside of the park).