Wildlife Viewing in Lamar Valley: An Insider's Guide

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Learn More About Viewing Wildlife in Lamar Valley

If you're interested in viewing or photographing a variety of wildlife, Lamar Valley is where you want to be. It's referred to as "America's Serengeti" due the abundance and diversity of wildlife found there. Like the East African Serengeti, Lamar Valley is an ecosystem of open plains and woodlands that, as it follows along Lamar River, creates the perfect environment for vast herds of animals and the predators that follow them. 

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Wildlife Found in Lamar Valley

In Lamar Valley, you will definitely see bison, lots of bison. There are between 2,300 and 5,500 bison in Yellowstone, split into two main herds, based on breeding patterns. The northern herd breeds in Lamar Valley (just 20 minutes from Elk Horn Lodge), while the central herd breeds in Hayden Valley. Also, bison don't see you as a threat (but, you should definitely see them as one), so they don't typically scatter when they notice you or your car.

Pronghorn are also prevalent in Lamar Valley. Around 500 of them are in Yellowstone, and the valley is one of most common places to find them.

Wolves are relatively common in Lamar Valley. Both the Junction Butte wolf pack and the Lamar Canyon wolf pack live there. However, wolves keep their distance from humans, so you'll need good optics to view them. You'll also need good optics to view bears (grizzly and black) found in the valley, mainly because you need to keep your distance from them.

Other animals you could run across in the Lamar Valley include elk, moose, deer, fox, and bighorn sheep. And, along Lamar River, you have a good chance to see a variety of waterfowl, as well as osprey and bald eagles.

When to View Lamar Valley Wildlife

In general, the best time of day to spot any wildlife in Lamar Valley is at dawn or dusk. The best location is from Yellowstone's Northeast Entrance at Cooke City and Silver Gate down to Slough Creek. As for viewing specific species, your best chance of seeing them varies with the season.

Bison are always around. However, August is a great time to view them. August is mating season, and you'll see some interesting behavior from bulls during this time. Spring is birthing season, and you have a good chance of seeing red-dog newborns having a good time.

Bear sightings are generally in spring, summer, and fall. In winter they're in hibernation.

Wolves are easiest to spot in winter. They stand out against the snow, making them much easier to see. Also, mating season is around February and March, and they'll be very active then. You do have a decent chance of spotting wolves in summer since they tend to stay in higher elevations (cooler temperatures) when it's hot. Note that wolf pups are born in April 

Moose, like bison, are always around. In winter, they tend to be in the area locals call Moose Meadows. It's found between Cooke City and the church you'll see about halfway from Cooke City to the Yellowstone park exit.
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Safety Tips

Bison, wolves, bears, moose, and elk are dangerous and very unpredictable. Don't make the mistake of thinking they'll telegraph coming after you. Here are a few common sense rules to follow when viewing or photographing wildlife in Lamar Valley.
  • Don't approach any animal.
  • Don't feed any animal.
  • Don't ever get between a mother and her offspring.
  • You're slower than pretty much any animal that can hurt you.
  • Stay at least 100 yards from bears and wolves.
  • Stay at least 50 yards from the closest bison.
  • Stay at least 25 yards from other animals.
  • Carry bear spray at all times, especially when hiking.


Want to know more about viewing and photographing wildlife in Lamar Valley? Here are a few resources you'll find useful. And, of course, you can always give us a call. We'll be glad to help!