Best Time to Visit Yellowstone For Wildlife

Yellowstone National Park is famous for its geysers, hot springs, canyons, waterfalls, and wildlife! If you’re wondering the best time to visit Yellowstone for wildlife, we list the animals you’ll see each month of the year at the park.

Use our Yellowstone National Park travel guide and the information below to determine the best time of year to plan your vacation.

best time to see wildlife at Yellowstone

We’ve created a resource detailing everything you need to know for visiting Yellowstone during all months of the year: weather, services available, what to pack, things to do, and more: Best Time to Visit Yellowstone National Park.

Yellowstone packing list Optin box

Yellowstone National Park Wildlife

Take a visual tour through Yellowstone National Park to see the stunning wildlife you’ll see at the park!

Best Time to Visit Yellowstone For Wildlife

During each season at Yellowstone you’ll see a wide variety of birds and mammals. Here’s our guide to the wildlife you’ll see at Yellowstone each month of the year.

Man in a bombardier snowcoach at Yellowstone in the winter

Yellowstone Wildlife in January

Visiting Yellowstone in January you’ll find all roads closed except from the north entrance in Gardiner to the northeast entrance in Cooke City. You can access the park from West Yellowstone and the south entrance near Grand Teton by Yellowstone snow coach tourssnowshoeing, cross country skiing or snowmobile tours.

Since the park is covered with a blanket of white snow, it’s easier to see the bison, elk, foxes, coyotes, and wolves. The birds you’ll see in January are mountain and black-capped chickadee, red-breasted nuthatch, Townsend’s solitaire, gray jay, and Clark’s nutcracker.

fox hunting in the snow

Yellowstone Wildlife in February

Accessing Yellowstone National Park in February is that same as January: snowcoach, snowmobile or snowshoeing.

Mating season begins for wolves and coyotes, as well as nesting season for great horned owls. Keep an eye out for otters diving for fish or skidding along the banks of the rivers.

Due to the harsh winter, elk and bison carcasses provide food for bald eagles, coyotes, foxes, ravens and wolves.

bison in the winter at yellowstone

Yellowstone Wildlife in March

There are still limited ways to enter Yellowstone National Park in March. You can see lots of wildlife driving the open road from Gardiner, through Lamar Valley and on to Cooke City.

Male bears begin to emerge from their dens in March searching for carcasses. Bison once again return to the Blacktail Ponds area. Sandhill cranes, ducks, robins, swans, geese, red-tailed hawks, bluebirds, and meadowlarks also begin to return to Yellowstone this time of year.

grizzly bear in the snow

Yellowstone Wildlife in April

When visiting Yellowstone National Park in April you’ll still find winter conditions so be prepared for cold and snowy conditions. Mid-April the West Entrance usually opens to provide access to Madison, Mammoth, Old Faithful and Norris.

In April you’ll begin to see bison calves along the northern end of the park. These calves are also called ‘red dogs’ because of their bright rusty orange coats. Male bears are also out and about. More birds begin to return: warblers, flycatchers, tanagers, swallows, loons, peregrine falcons, and osprey.

Bison and red dog at Yellowstone

Yellowstone Wildlife in May

You’ll still encounter unpredictable weather at Yellowstone in May. The East Entrance opens in early May; the South Entrance opens in mid May; and Dunraven Pass opens at the end of May.

May is an amazing time for wildlife babies: bear cubs, elk calves, and wolf pups begin to be seen throughout the park in the vibrant green meadows.

Chorus frogs can be heard in marshy areas. The rivers, streams and Yellowstone waterfalls are full and raging from the snowmelt.

elk and fawn at Yellowstone in the spring

Yellowstone Wildlife in June

The park roads and services are usually fully open at Yellowstone in June!

Bears, elk, wolves, bison, moose, marmots, pronghorn, bighorn sheep and more are raising babies in June. Predators like grizzlies, badgers, and peregrine falcons are hunting these young animals. Spawning trout also provide food to bears and otters. Over 150 species of birds now can be found along cliff ledges, tree limbs, trunk cavities, grasslands, marshes, and treetops.

Black wolf at Yellowstone

Yellowstone Wildlife in July

It’s the busy season at Yellowstone National Park in July. Most wildlife heads up to high mountain elevations during the summer. You might need to use a spotting scope to see some of the wildlife this time of year.

In the summer months the best places to see wildlife are Hayden and Lamar Valleys. We recommend you continue past Lamar Valley to Cooke City and even drive along Beartooth Highway. Look for bison, elk, bear, moose, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, coyote, fox, and badgers! Fly fishing is a big draw during this time of year.

three mountain goats along beartooth highway near yellowstone

Yellowstone Wildlife in August

When visiting Yellowstone in August, the landscape turns a gold color as grasses cure and the risk of forest fires rises.

The bison rut happens every August, and it’s exciting to watch. You’ll find big herds in Lamar and Hayden Valley. Mid August the pronghorn are mating. Red squirrels are busy stashing pine cones for the winter.

The drive through Lamar Valley to Cooke City and along Beartooth Highway is home to many types of animals: bison, elk, bear, moose, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, coyote, fox, and badgers!

two bison lock horns during the bison rut at yellowstone

Yellowstone Wildlife in September

Planning a Yellowstone vacation in the fall is one of the best times to visit. The weather is just right for outdoor activities.

Around the second week of September, you’ll begin to hear the high pitched bugle of bull elk signaling the elk rut! The town of Mammoth is a terrific place to watch the male elk exert their dominance.

Bears return to the lower elevations looking for berries and bull bison or elk that perished during the rut. Migratory hawks and eagles begin to travel south and west for the winter.

bull and female elk during the elk rut at Yellowstone

Yellowstone Wildlife in October

When visiting Yellowstone in October the lodges, stores, gas stations and roads begin to close for the season. Do your research in advance so you know what to expect for all park services.

As snow begins to fall, male grizzlies are eating what they can before denning season, and female grizzlies are looking for possible den locations. Bison, elk, deer and other mammals build up coats of fur for the winter. Most of the summer birds have left Yellowstone, and those that remain also build up coats of feathers to withstand the cold.

grizzly bear with dead elk buried under dirt

Yellowstone Wildlife in November

Keep in mind that most of the park roads close when visiting Yellowstone in November. For the entire month of November, you are limited to the one single road from the north entrance in Gardiner to the northeast entrance in Cooke City.

Around Thanksgiving the deer and bighorn sheep rut is at its peak. If you’re lucky you’ll hear the smack of bighorn rams butting heads over females. Rabbits and weasels don white fur coats for the winter.

bighorn sheep at Yellowstone

Yellowstone Wildlife in December

If you’re visiting Yellowstone in December the park can once again be accessed via by Yellowstone snow coach tourssnowshoeing, cross country skiing or snowmobile tours.

In December the trumpeter swans return and can be found floating along the Yellowstone and Firehole Rivers. Since the park is again a landscape of white snow, it’s easier to see the bison, elk, foxes, coyotes, and wolves that stay in the park during the winter.

bison at yellowstone in the winter

Yellowstone maps and guides

Plan a Yellowstone Vacation

Places to stay in West Yellowstone

Places to stay in Gardiner

Places to stay in Cooke City or Silver Gate

plan your dream vacation to yellowstone

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