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Watching Wildlife in Denali National Park

Designated by Congress in 1917 specifically to protect the wildlife living along the slopes and valleys within the Alaska Range, Denali National Park has been an animal haven for some time. As the northernmost park in the U.S. National Park system, you’ll enjoy sights and terrain you can’t find anywhere else in the contiguous U.S. You will note 39 species of mammals, 169 species of birds, 14 species of fish, but 0 species of reptiles.

Some of the most iconic large mammals in the park include black bears, wolves, caribou, moose, Dall sheep, foxes, and marmots.

Denali National Park is perhaps most known for its bird life. Golden eagles are there but rare to see, and you may often view a transitory bald eagle. It’s more common to see ravens, mew gulls, gray jays, and ptarmigan. Don’t forget to peer down into the rivers for the abundant fish that will swim upstream in the spring season.

The Denali National Park’s Top Animals

  • Bears
  • Caribou
    • Also known as the American reindeer, caribou is a species of deer with circumpolar distribution, native to the Arctic. They can be spotted in herds throughout the park.
  • Moose
  • Dall Sheep
    • As a northern breed of bighorn sheep, dall sheep are found high up in the mountains around Denali National Park. They can be spotted on Mount Margaret, Mount Wright, and Polychrome.
  • Foxes
  • Marmots
  • Wolves

Viewing Locations

Denali Park Road
Serpentine Park Road: Dall sheep
Savage River: Moose
Rile Creek Campground: Moose
Mount Wright: Dall sheep
Igloo Forest: Bears, wolves
Teklanika River: Bears, wolves
Sable Pass: Grizzly bears

When Should You Go?

Considering the northern location of Denali National Park, the best time of year to both visit the park and see the animals is during the summer. The core visiting season runs from June to September, when all facilities are open. However, if you are willing to brave the winter season, you are more likely to catch the migratory animals coming off of the mountains into the valleys to find warmth. You will most likely need a guide to access the animals safely in the colder months.

Watching Wildlife in Canyonlands National Park

Since the Canyonlands can appear quiet and deserted to the average visitor, it’s often assumed there isn’t much wildlife viewing to take in at the park. That could not be more wrong! A diverse collection of birds, lizards, and some rodents are frequently spotted when traversing the park, dependent upon weather and time of year.

In order to adapt to the desert, most of these animals will be nocturnal, meaning they are only active at night to reserve their hydration levels during the day. Of course, there are a few animals in the park that break that cycle, including rock squirrels, antelope squirrels, chipmunks, lizards, snakes, hawks, and eagles.

Nearly 50 species of mammals are known to live in the Canyonlands, many of which are smaller species due to the lack of water and intense sunlight.

The Canyonland’s Top Animals

  • Kangaroo Rats
    • Uniquely adapted to living in the desert, the kangaroo rat lives its entire life on nothing but plant matter. It produces its own water by metabolizing the food it eats, which means it doesn’t need to find a water source to survive. The rats spend the hottest hours of the day sleeping in their cool underground burrows.
  • Mule Deer
  • Woodrats
  • Ringtails
  • Foxes
  • Bobcats
  • Mountain Lions
  • Bats
  • Owls
  • Desert Bighorn Sheep
    • Yes, there is a variety of bighorn sheep suited just for the desert. These animals roam the talus slopes and the side canyons along the rivers as their water source. Once on the brink of becoming extinct, these sheep have made a big comeback in the Canyonlands.

Viewing Locations

Talus Slopes: Desert bighorn sheep
Side Canyons: Desert bighorn sheep, mule deer
Salt Creek Canyon: Bears
The Needles: Bears

When Should You Go?

During the winter months, the reptiles in the park disappear and hibernate due to the cold temperatures. However, during the brutal summer months between August and early October, visitors are more likely to catch sight of a black bear in the canyons as they descend to enjoy the pear cactus and hackberry trees.

If you are planning to visit the Canyonlands in the summer, pack plenty of water and do your hiking in the early morning or evening hours. As a desert region, it can also get cold enough to snow in winter. Pack accordingly!

Watching Wildlife in Acadia National Park

Uniquely located in the very Northeast of the United States in the state of Maine, Acadia National Park is famous for its sunrises, sweeping coastal vistas, pink granite mountains, and forests that are home to a variety of animals. From tide pools filled with microorganisms to moose and humpback whales, there’s something for everyone at Acadia National Park.

The park is home to 40 species of mammals, including bats, black bears, and squirrels, as well as 330 species of birds, 30 species of fish, 7 reptiles, and 11 amphibians. You can see everything from bustling marine life to bald eagles soaring in the sky. Although it’s not always easy to find these mammals in Acadia National Park, we’re going to provide you with some expert insight to help with your search!

Acadia National Park’s Top Animals

  • Birds
  • Otters
  • Bald Eagles
  • White-Tailed Deer
  • Bears
  • Moose
  • Bobcats
  • Raccoons
  • Skunks
    • This cute, nocturnal species is one to tread carefully with if you face them head on. They can spray you and cause an unpleasant odor on your skin and clothes that will last for days. Be sure to use a flashlight if you are checking on something at night, causing you to accidentally scare them.
  • Seals
    • Seals are the most commonly seen marine mammal off of the shores of Maine. They are often in the harbor in the spring during New England’s seal pupping season. Here you’ll find harbor, gray, harp, and hooded seals.
  • Dolphins
    • The Atlantic white-sided dolphin can be spotted in Maine year round. These dolphins travel along the coast of the Atlantic, as far south as Long Island, jumping and chasing one another in the ocean tides.
  • Whales
    • You can see the Finback, Humpback, and Minke whales in the water from Acadia National Park.
  • Sharks
    • It’s possible to see different species of shark swimming around the waters in search of their next snack, especially when there are seal pups around.

Viewing Locations

Sieur de Monts Spring: Songbirds
Wonderland Trail: Songbirds
Ocean Drive: Shorebirds
Seawall: Shorebirds
The Precipice: Bald eagles, peregrine falcons,
The Tarn: Otters, mink
Great Meadow: White-tailed deer
Schoodic Peninsula: Bears, moose
Mount Desert Island: Bears, moose
Bar Harbor: Whales, seals, dolphins, sharks

When Should You Go?

The best time for Maine whale and dolphin watching begins in mid-April when hungry whales arrive to feast in local waters. They will feed on the sand eels, copepods, plankton, and fish in the water. Come October, they will migrate south towards warmer waters. Acadia National Park is regarded as one of the best whale-watching locations in the country.

The winter is actually the best time of year to see the larger land mammals, like moose and dear, which will descend as close to sea level as possible for some warmth. You can witness a crossover of habitats while these animals explore the sea for a possible food source.

However, Maine can be incredibly cold in the winter time, so you’ll want to pack accordingly. The most popular times to visit the park are between April and October. The fall presents a foliage backdrop that is second to none.

Watching Wildlife at Yosemite National Park

Nestled into California’s Sierra Nevada mountains, Yosemite National Park is famous for its ancient sequoia trees, the iconic vista of towering Bridalveil Fall, and the granite cliffs of El Capitan and Half Dome. More than just an ancient trove of geological spectacles, Yosemite boasts an impressive wildlife community as well.

Home to more than 500 black bears, although presenting more brown than black in appearance, Yosemite National Park is bursting with mammal activity. Don’t forget to bring your binoculars to view the 262 bird species that reside within the park!

Yosemite National Park’s Top Animals

  • Black Bears
  • Mule Deer
  • Bobcats
  • Mountain Lions
  • Turtles
  • Coyotes
  • Elk
  • Sierra Nevada Bighorn Sheep
    • This specific branch-off breed of the Sierra Nevada Bighorn Sheep can be seen in Yosemite National Park. Home to more than 600 bighorn sheep, they are currently on the endangered species list.
  • Pacific Fishers
    • Fishers are tree-dwelling carnivores that were once abundant throughout the states of Washington, Oregon, and Northern California. They have been extirpated from more than 50% of their previous range, though some live abundantly within Yosemite National Park. Although they have faced adversity in the past, they have proven to be a hardy and durable species.

Viewing Locations

Mariposa Grove: Mule deer, elk, coyotes, mountain lions, bighorn sheep
Tuolumne: Pacific fishers, black bears, bobcats, bighorn sheep
Meadows: Bears, elk, mule deer
Pine Campgrounds: Bears
Curry Village: Bears, bighorn sheep
Glacier Point: Bears

When Should You Go?

Due to Yosemite’s location high up in the mountains, the park can be closed for many months out of the year due to snow and dangerous conditions. Therefore, it’s most popular to visit the park between the months of May and September. The busiest wildlife viewing months are June through August, but if you want a better chance of being able to enjoy the animals in private, try late April/early May or late September when it’s less crowded. Less noise and commotion will make it more likely that the animals will show themselves near you.

Watching Wildlife at Zion National Park

Regarded as one of the most unique climates, habitats, and earthly formations in all of the United States, Zion National Park is one of the most visited National Parks in our country today. Home to more than 68 species of mammals, ranging from the porcupine to the bighorn sheep, Zion National Park is quickly becoming an wildlife viewing favorite for many of the country’s animal lovers.

Since Zion sits at the boundaries and meeting points of the Colorado Plateau, the Great Basin, the Basin and Range, and the Mojave Desert physio-geographic zones, animal life in this region is vast and varied.

Zion National Park’s Top Animals

  • Mule Deer
  • Bighorn Sheep
  • Rock Squirrels
  • Coyotes
  • Gray Foxes
  • Ringtails
  • Mountain Lions
  • Bobcats
  • Beavers
  • Porcupines
    • This unique rodent is common in higher elevation forests, and is found also in lower elevation riparian zones and even deserts. That’s why the porcupine is fond of Zion National Park. Known for being a slow moving, short-legged creature covered in long black hair and barbed quills, the American Porcupine is something to behold – but not touch.
  • Mexican Spotted Owl
    • This owl is listed as threatened at a federal level, which is why Zion National Park is a critical location for their survival.
  • Mojave Desert Tortoises
    • Also endangered, a small population of Mojave Desert tortoises is being monitored by park staff today.
  • California Condor

Viewing Locations

Canyon Floor: By day, you are much more likely to see mule deer, rock squirrels, foxes, etc. on the canyon floor, where they will go to find respite from the hot sunny temperatures.
Rocky Terrain: To spot rock squirrels and big horn sheep, look towards the canyon walls and riparian waterways.
Riverside Walk: Rock squirrels
Virgin River: Mule deer
Angels Landing Trail: Mule deer, eagles, and lizards
Weeping Rock Area: Falcons, wrens, and white-throated swifts

When Should You Go?

The most popular times to visit Zion National Park are between the months of May and November when temperatures are moderate to hot and the park’s free shuttles are running. The park does receive snowfall and can be the host of very low temperatures in the winter season, so you should pack for a varied climate.