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Watching Wildlife at Glacier National Park

Located in the state of Montana is Glacier National Park, home to 71 species of mammals, ranging from the tiny pygmy shrew, to the American Elk, Glacier National Park is regarded as a largely undisturbed park in the United States. This is due to two reasons: the park was designated in 1910, much earlier than other parks, and the park is massive in size, totaling to over 1 million acres.

So what kind of wildlife viewing can you expect to do at this park? We’ll go in-depth on animals we haven’t covered yet, leaving notable mentions to those we have covered.

Glacier National Park’s Most Watched Animals

Bats: Glacier National Park is home to nine species of bat, with the most common being the little brown bat. Known as insectivores that consume one third of their bodyweight in insects during their nocturnal feeding periods, these bats are nearly 52.5 million years old. During the winter months, many of the bats will fly out of the park into warmer locations.

Bears: Grizzly bears can run up to 45 miles per hour, feeding on nuts, berries, plant roots, and other animals. They are often agitated when confronted and are more likely to attack than a black bear. A black bear is more common than a grizzly bear, found across North America. They have shorter, more curved claws than grizzly bears and are not aggressive.

Beavers: As a crepuscular species, meaning they are active in the morning and evening hours, beavers live in family groups and feed off of willow, aspen, and cottonwood. They also rely on underwater plants for nourishment.

Bighorn Sheep: Although these sheep are widely dispersed over the Rocky Mountains, they can also be found in fragmented populations throughout the park. Named for the large, curved horns on the males, male sheephorn can be spotted by having head-butting contests to win over a female.

Elk: During the winter, most elk will retreat from the park. They are known to be the one of the most abundant large mammals in Glacier National Park, with antlers that can weigh about 30 pounds per pair.

Lynx: Although rarely seen in the continental United States, the American Lynx is listed as a threatened species in the lower 48 states today. The Canada Lynx does frequent portions of Glacier National Park at times. At more than twice the size of a domestic cat, lynx prefer to hunt in higher elevations, where they can blend in and find their prey.

Mountain Goats: The Rocky Mountain Goat is well suited for survival high up in the Rockies today, with two layers of wool, and a dense overcoat covered by an outer layer of long hollow hairs. Their specialized cloven hooves with traction-creating inner pads and dewclaws provide easy footing as they jump between cliffs.

Mountain Lions: The largest feline in North America, the Mountain Lion, is a site to beheld in Glacier National Park. Although not commonly seen, they are considered one of the larger predators in the park, preying on moose, elk, deer, sheep, and smaller animals.

Wolverines: Regarded as the largest member of the weasel family, wolverines reside in remote wilderness with ample spring snow covering. Their short, stocky legs gives them the ability to navigate ice and snow, with a thick coat for keeping them warm. Highly nomadic, these weasels will travel great distances in search of food.

Viewing Locations

  • Logan Pass: mountain goats, bighorn sheep, lynx
  • Spreey/Gunsight: mountain goats
  • Hidden Lake: mountain goats, black bears
  • Iceberg Lake: mountain goats, black bears
  • Grinnell Lake: mountain goats, black bears
  • Fishercap Lake: moose
  • Swiftcurrent: bears, moose
  • Many Glacier: grizzle bears

When Should You Go?

Since Glacier National Park is located to the far north of the United States, the most popular time to visit the park is the July/August portion of the year. The park can endure below freezing temperatures from October to May. If you are not a seasoned hiker or winter adventurer, stick to the late spring, summer, and early fall seasons. The average daily temperature is usually in the low 70s, with evenings dropping down to the 40s (it is not warm there).
For those who are experienced with winter-time hiking and adventuring, Glacier National Park can be highly rewarding.