When you go to Africa, you’ve got a checklist. You want to see the Big Five: lions, elephants, rhinos, hippos, and giraffes. When you come to Yellowstone, you’ve also got a list of all the big animals you want to encounter. You want to see mighty bears in their natural habitat, and definitely not feed them. You want to block traffic as you climb out of your car to photograph bison from a safe distance. You might even want to spot some wolves as they glower at you from the bushes. And of course you’d rather not leave without seeing some elk or moose.
Where are the best places to see these creatures? First, check out this map from the National Park Service, which shows the best places to see large animals.
There are about 500-650 black bears and 280-610 grizzlies in Yellowstone. Grizzly bears are most active at night and dawn and dusk time periods. Black bears are active primarily during daylight. Look for black bears in small openings within or near forested areas. For your safety, stay inside your vehicle when viewing roadside bears.
More than 100 wolves live in Yellowstone. The best time of year to view wolves is winter. They are more visible during the day, the prey is in plain sight. As wolves are comparatively rare, you may want to hire a private guide— http://www.wolftracker.com/ Sometimes, people mistake coyotes for wolves.
Elk number 15,000 to 25,000 in the park. During September, they gather for their annual mating season, the bulls bugling to show their love for the cows all day.
Bison more than 3500. You can’t miss them. Sometimes they amble across roads like they own the place. August is the best place to view the 3500 bison who roam Hayden Valley for mating season.
Fewer than 500 moose live in Yellowstone. Grand Teton National Park, to the south of Yellowstone, is much more prime moose habitat, and they can be viewed there, especially in the fall.
Remember, all these animals can be very dangerous. Please keep your distance. Nothing ruins a good Yellowstone vacation like getting your innards ripped open by a large, angry animal.