When we visited Yellowstone National Park over the 4th of July in 2008, I was astonished by two things. First, that Yellowstone is big enough to comfortably accommodate large summer holiday crowds. Second, the park is full of wildlife that can be seen readily from the main roads.
Yellowstone isn’t a zoo, so there are no guaranteed wildlife sightings. However, there are so many animals in Yellowstone National Park that your odds of seeing large grazing animals like elk, bison or moose are excellent.
Bears, coyote, fox and other predators are harder to spot, but sightings are not uncommon, especially in the early morning hours. Get more tips for seeing these elusive animals in this post: 5 Fun Things to Do in Yellowstone National Park with Kids.
My family spotted a bear, coyote, bald eagles and countless bison and elk on our trip to Yellowstone, without doing anything special. Just keep your eyes peeled and the camera handy.
Wildlife sightings are exciting, especially for “city dwellers” like us. Here are a few important safety tips to keep in mind.
Keep a safe distance
The wildlife of Yellowstone seem tame because they are used to cars and people, but they are unpredictable. Bears, bison and other animals are faster than they look and can easily outrun a human if they feel threatened. Even those adorable little chipmunks can give nasty bites. Animals have injured and killed tourists in Yellowstone.
Yellowstone National Park is a great place to teach children respect for nature. You’ll see tourists doing some crazy things. Just make sure you’re not one of them.
Never feed wildlife
Offering an animal food may seem like a good way to get a closer photo, and it may even feel kind. However, it’s not a good idea.
Feeding wild animals can make them dependent on humans for food and disrupt nature’s balance. You could put yourself or your family in danger. Plus, your junk food isn’t any healthier for them than it is for you.
Don’t feed the animals unintentionally. Use the bear-proof garbage cans at picnic and camp sites. Always store food in a safe place where bears are not likely to sniff it out, like your locked car. These time-tested rules are in place to protect both visitors and animals.
Traffic jams and groups of cars pulled off the road are sure ways to tell if there is an animal nearby. Pay attention to the road when driving and pull out of the way of traffic if you want to stop for a better look at the wildlife.
Be especially careful if you drive through the park at nighttime. There will likely be more animals near the road at night than during the day, and they will be harder to see. Follow posted speed limits and pay close attention to avoid an accident.