Beyond Yellowstone: Where to View Wildlife Outside the Park
Photo courtesy of Brand MT
Yellowstone National Park may be the most well-known spot for wildlife watching, and there is no denying that the Park is spectacular. Large herds of bison, grizzly and black bears, wolves, elk, deer, and fox call Yellowstone home. During the spring, you'll find newborns frolicking around, and during the rut (mating season) in the fall, big bull elk and bison battle it out over the females. However, if you are incredibly diligent and go early morning or late evening, you'll find animals like wolves and bear most active. So, by all means, wildlife watching in Yellowstone is worth it.
However, the Park isn't the only place to observe these amazing animals. Beyond the borders, you'll find wildlife in every nook and cranny throughout the region. So, if you're interested in exploring, know where to look, and are patient, you'll often find them in the wild. Or, if trekking through the mountains isn't your favorite pastime, Yellowstone Country has numerous wildlife sanctuaries for animals that can no longer live in the wild. Part of the mission of these sanctuaries is to educate the public, and most of them allow you to observe the animals up close and personal.
We've gathered our favorite suggestions for those who want to get out and experience animals in the wild. But keep your eyes wide open as you travel through Yellowstone Country – you never know when or where you'll see one of these magnificent creatures.
Photo by Pryor Wild
Pryor Mountain Wild Mustang Preserve
This 38,000-acre preserve is home to a herd of wild mustangs, thought to have been brought to the area by Crow tribes over 200 years ago. Most live on East Pryor Mountain, and these free-ranging mustangs are relatively easy to find. Still, some of the mustangs live in desert lowlands along Highway 37 in the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area and are easily spotted from the road. While there, keep your eye out for bighorn sheep, mule deer, coyotes, and other birds and animals.
One of the most spectacular and wild areas of Yellowstone Country, the Beartooth Mountains are full of Rocky Mountain goats, grizzlies and black bears, elk, deer, moose, bighorn sheep, mountain lions, and bobcats. You'll most likely need to venture off the beaten path to find these animals in such a vast area, but keep your eye out for the mountain goats, which can often be seen off the Beartooth Highway.
Bridger Mountain Range
Another great place to view mountain goats is in the Bridger mountains, specifically on the trail and around Sacajawea Peak, the tallest peak in the Bridgers. These frolicky goats are seemingly friendly as they lounge around the peak. And if you're lucky enough to watch them run across the craggy rocks, you'll witness climbing skills that seem surreal.
Greycliff Prairie Dog Town State Park
One of the more unusual wildlife viewing spots, the 98-acre Prairie Dog State Park is the perfect place to view black-tailed prairie dogs in their natural environment. Interpretive displays tell the story of these small, entertaining creatures and their ecological significance. The patches of habitat they create provide prey, shelter, and forage for a diverse number of animals, including burrowing owls, black-footed ferrets, and mountain plovers.
For more information on the types of wildlife found in Yellowstone Country, read Spring Awakening: Wildlife Viewing in Yellowstone Country.