Top Ten National Parks for Wildlife Viewing

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
By Nicole Daro
Gray wolf
Gray wolves are making a comeback in Yellowstone (Corel)

Best for: Elk, wolves, bison, and deer.

Yellowstone is often billed as the wildlife park, and indeed the vast area made up of the park itself and surrounding public lands is an exceptional area for wildlife viewing. Visitors to Yellowstone (all three million of them per year) catch a glimpse of the larger-than-life landscape that stretched across most of North America before westward expansion took hold.

In addition to natural wonders like the Old Faithful geyser and numerous hot springs, Yellowstone is home to more than 30,000 elk, 3,000 bison, 2,000 mule deer, and hundreds of grizzlies, moose, bighorn sheep, and pronghorn antelope. In the past decade, the park has become home again to gray wolves, who were absent from the park for more than 60 years due to extermination by park rangers. Park rangers now play an active role in conserving the wolves, who are a valuable component of this amazing ecosystem.

The best way to see the animals is to get up early and head to the Lamar Valley, where elk herds graze under the watchful eyes of the wolf packs who prey on them. If you're lucky, you may even get to see the wolves attack the weaker members of the herd. Most animals are out grazing at dawn and retreat into the woods as people gather along the road to spy on them.

The greater Yellowstone ecosystem, which includes Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National Park, and several protected forests and wildlife refuges, is perhaps the closest thing to a fully intact ecosystem in the U.S. This vast area is home to 95,000 elk.


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