Yellowstone's abundant and diverse wildlife are as famous as its geysers. Nearly all of the wildlife species that inhabited the park when it was first explored over 100 years ago survive today qualifying Yellowstone as the only intact eco-system in the lower 48 states. Early morning and evening hours are the best times to view wildlife but during the evening is another productive time for wildlife viewing.
Habitat preferences and seasonal cycles of movement determine where a particular animal may be at a particular time. Early morning and evening hours are when animals tend to be feeding and thus are more easily seen. But remember that the numbers and variety of animals you see are largely a matter of luck and coincidence; however always remember we make our own luck.
The magnificent wildlife found in Yellowstone is one of the primary reasons that people visit the Park each year. Around every corner lies the chance to view bison, elk, deer, and even bear. This is truly the Wild West.
Wild animals, especially females with young, are unpredictable. Keep a safe distance from all wildlife. Each year a number of park visitors are injured by wildlife when approaching too closely. Approaching on foot within 100 yards of bears or wolves or within 25 yards of other wildlife is prohibited. Please use roadside pullouts when viewing wildlife. Use binoculars or telephoto lenses for safe viewing and to avoid disturbing them. By being sensitive to they need for elbowroom you will see more of an animal's natural behavior and activity. If you cause an animal to move, you are too close! It is illegal to willfully remain near or approach wildlife, including birds, within ANY distance that disturbs or displaces the animal. All Wildlife have what is known as a “Fight or Flight distance”, this the distance where they decided whether to take flight and run away from or too just stomp you to death, gore you, or maul you. It is not good to test an animals Fight or Flight distance.
Most harmful conflicts between people and wildlife could be avoided.Respect the needs of wildlife for undisturbed territory. Never chase or charge any animal. Taking these precautions is particularly important near breeding, nesting or feeding areas. Backcountry use may be restricted during certain times of the year to minimize disturbance of wildlife. Some animals may be quite curious, but resist the temptation to feed them. Even in low use areas, feeding wildlife can alter their migration, feeding habits, and reproduction levels, resulting in unnatural behavior, population structure and species composition. Some animals may readily approach humans but can bite, scratch and kick without warning. Detour around large animals such as moose, bison and elk, especially during mating season or when young animals are present.
While in Yellowstone always keep your camera ready as photo opportunities are often fleeting and it is important to be ready.