When to See Wildlife in Yellowstone

The time of year that will, to a large degree, determine the setting and types of animals that you will see when you arrive in Yellowstone.

May and June are baby season. The bull elk and moose have lost last season’s antlers and sport nubs of new growth. Mats of winter fur are falling off of most of the adults. Baby bison, baby moose, baby bear, baby elk, baby, baby, babies everywhere. During this time of year most of the animals are concentrated in or near the valleys, waiting for the deep high country snow to melt. This is a great time of year to see wolves and grizzly bears.
July and August is the time of year when many animals head for the high country. Elk and bear are a little less common in the valleys. Remaining herds of bison, at times, fill the valleys from end to end. For much of July, osprey nests will still hold this year’s hatchlings. Around the first week of August, bison will go into rut. This is the least talked about animal “cool thing” in the park. Male bison will butt heads with such force that sometimes one bull will go down during a battle never to get up again. The noise the rutting bulls make will seem other worldly or may remind you of your husband or boyfriend. Sad but true.

September and October is a magical time in Yellowstone. The elk start to rut around the first week in September and continue through much of the month. Fall colors can begin to show up in early September and usually peak around the 20th. Fall is the time of year to photograph elk, moose, bighorn, grizzly and just about every other Yellowstone animal in their prime. As the season progresses, the number of people and cars in the park drop off, allowing for a more intimate time.

November thru April is a great time to watch wolves. The elk tend to stay closer to the valley due to deep snow covering their food source at higher elevations. On many days, you can see wolves dining at their favorite restaurant, appropriately called “elk carcass”.