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The Explorer’s Guide to the Animals of Grand Teton National Park

The Explorer’s Guide to the Animals of Grand Teton National Park

Many of the Grand Teton National Park animals are easy to overlook, especially considering the natural beauty of this park. These prominent mountains dominate the landscapes, and many tourists flock to the area to enjoy them. However, it can be an exciting adventure to see some of the many animals that call the Tetons home.

Today, we’re looking at the many animals in Grand Teton National Park. You might even be able to determine how many you’ve seen or can see on your next trip to the park. Let’s jump in!

Everyone Should Visit Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton National Park is in northwest Wyoming and is the southern neighbor of the famous Yellowstone National Park. The park offers some out-of-this-world landscape views with glacier-capped mountains that many will only see in pictures.

Grand Teton National Park & Jackson Hole, Wyoming | MOTM Vlog #59

It’s a 310,000-acre playground for wildlife and nature lovers. Whether you’re hoping to hike, boat, rock climb, or spot wildlife, Grand Teton National Park is a great place to do it. While in the area, you can see the many area attractions like Mormon Row, Moulton Barns, and the quaint city of Jackson.

While many choose to visit Grand Teton National Park as a day trip while visiting Yellowstone, it’s worth much more. You can spend weeks in the park and still not experience all that this incredible place offers.

How to Safely View Grand Teton National Park Animals

Interactions between humans and wildlife are becoming much too frequent. Many humans ignore guidelines and sometimes laws in pursuit of snapping a picture for social media or to “connect” with the wildlife. However, as docile and slow-moving as bison and other large wildlife appear, it can become a deadly situation when they “connect” one of their horns with a tourist.

Grand Teton National Park requires that visitors stay 100 yards (300 feet) from bears and 25 yards (75 feet) from all other wildlife, including bison. Failing to follow these regulations often results in a citation. If you encounter any wildlife while visiting the park, keep your distance and avoid escalating the situation.

The safest way to view wildlife in Grand Teton National Park, and many other national parks, is by driving scenic drives. Grand Teton National Park has four designated scenic drives: Jenny Lake Scenic Drive, Moose-Wilson Road, Signal Mountain Summit Road, and Teton Park Road. Take your time and use pull-offs when necessary to let traffic behind you pass.

Family walking through Grand Teton National Park together.
Spot wildlife while exploring Grand Teton National Park.

Wildlife Viewing Areas in Grand Teton National Park

The National Elk Refuge is just down the road from Grand Teton National Park. This wildlife refuge is home to more than 6,000 elk and 800 buffalo. Since the area experiences much fewer visitors during the winter months, many don’t get the opportunity to see the massive herd in the valley. However, if you visit the area between January and March, you’ll have the best chances of seeing a tremendous amount of elk at the refuge. However, you can see plenty of wildlife inside the park no matter the time of year.

There’s no shortage of wildlife viewing sites in the area. Many of the best spots to view animals are near water. That’s because animals, like humans, need to eat and drink. Colter Bay, the Snake River, and Blacktail Ponds Overlook are popular spots to see deer, beavers, muskrats, and waterfowl. If it’s your lucky day, you may catch a glimpse of a bear, moose, or elk getting a drink or looking for a meal.

Other spots to view wildlife are Oxbow Bend, Teton Park Road, and Cascade/Death Canyons. These are popular spots for black and grizzly bears. If you choose to get out of your vehicle, carry bear spray and practice bear safety.

Pro Tip: Use our guide on What to Do When Visiting Grand Teton National Park during your next adventure.

Elk walking in snow in Grand Teton National Park.
Travel to the Grand Tetons between January and March for the best elk viewing.

The Explorer’s Guide to the Animals of Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton National Park has an abundance of animals that call the park home. Simply driving through the park or going for a hike can be a great way to enjoy these marvelous creatures. Let’s look at some of the many animals that call the park home.

Fowl Family

Officials estimate that 330 species of birds live in Grand Teton National Park. You’ll even find 11 different species classified as rare. Birds like the Snow Goose, Ferruginous hawk, and the Burrowing owl are just a few rare bird species found in the park.

Alpine, lodgepole pine forests, aspen forests, sagebrush flats, and the various aquatic areas are full of many species of birds. Depending on the bird you want to see, you’ll want to spend time in those areas. The park produces a fantastic Bird Finding Guide to make it easier to spot a particular type of bird.

Some of the most popular birds guests come to see are bald eagles and ospreys. These birds are frequently spotted dipping down for food along the Snake and Gros Ventre Rivers and the many lakes throughout the park. Guests who have never seen one of these birds in person can’t believe how massive these creatures can be.

Woman birdwatching
Bird watchers will love exploring Grand Teton National Park.

Fish Family

There are rivers, lakes, and ponds throughout Grand Teton National Park. Many visitors come to the Tetons to experience some of the best trout fishing in the world. Anglers often catch many different types of trout.

Fishing is a great way to encounter different types of fish in the park. Fishing in the park requires a license and follows regulations enforced by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. Make sure you brush up on the requirements when it comes to the use of baits and which waters have seasonal closures.

Cattle Family

Grand Teton National Park has a few members of the cattle family, one of which is one of the most popular animals in the park. The members of the cattle family include bison, mountain goats, and bighorn sheep.

These animals wander their way through the park, but you can often spot them near the Snake River and the many sagebrush fields in the park. Areas along Teton Park Road near North Jenny Lake are popular spots for herds of bison to roam.

Deer Family

The members of the deer family in Grand Teton National Park include elk, mule deer, white-tailed deer, and moose. It’s not uncommon to see these deer grazing in areas near water and grasslands where there’s plenty of food available. Despite their large stature, these animals are faster than you think. You must be on the lookout while driving, especially at night.

If you want to spot members of the deer family in the park, look near Northern Jackson Lake, Colter Bay, Willow Flats, Oxbow Bend, and the many water sources. They’re rather stealthy creatures that will stay away from humans as much as possible. So if you’re hiking on a trail and making a tremendous amount of noise, you’re likely not to spot them.

Bear sitting in Grand Teton National Park
Always keep a safe distance from wildlife in Grand Teton National Park.

Cat Family

The park is also home to a few members of the cat family. However, these aren’t your ordinary house cats. You can find mountain lions, the Canadian lynx, and bobcats throughout the park.

You’ll likely see these felines in higher elevations and alpine meadows. They like grassy mountain slopes that have rugged cliffs and bluffs. They’re cunning creatures that do their best to avoid human interactions and are rare sights in the park.

Dog Family

Much like the cat family, the species in the dog family are not dogs you’d want living in your home. These are coyotes, the gray wolf, and the red fox. Spotting these creatures can be challenging, but your best bet will be near any of the sagebrush flats and water sources. They’ll often lay waiting for food sources to come for a drink of water and attack. 

Bear Family

Members of the bear family are likely what most visitors want to see when visiting the park. The park is home to black bears and grizzly bears—neither of which you want to run into on a trail. The safest place to watch a bear is from the safety of your vehicle.

However, not all bear sightings happen in this ideal environment; some happen on trails. Park officials do a great job of keeping track of bear activity and often shut down areas for guests’ safety.

Bear sightings happen all over the park. They’re often hanging out near any of the water sources and food sources like lakes, ponds, and rivers. However, they travel from location to location and can appear anywhere. Make sure you keep your distance and are practicing bear safety at all times while in the park.

Other Families 

Grand Teton National Park is also home to many other types of animals. You’ll find members of the shrew family, such as masked shrews, dusky shrews, and dwarf shrews. There are also nine members of the weasel family, including wolverines and the North American river otter.

The park also has species in the bat family, raccoon family, and gnawing mammals. If you enjoy spotting wildlife you’ve possibly never seen before, Grand Teton National Park is the place to do it. You may just spot your first porcupine, flying squirrel, or American pika.

Pro Tip: Wildlife lovers will love exploring these 7 Best States to See Wolverines in the Wild.

Hikers on trail in Grand Teton National Park
Keep an eye out for bears while on the trail in Grand Teton National Park.

The Best Time to See the Animals in Grand Teton National Park

The fall and winter months are a fantastic time to visit the park and see wildlife. This is mainly because the temperatures are cooler, and there are few guests in the park to scare away animals. However, many of the animals in the park are most active during the transitional moments of dawn and dusk.

During these times, you must move about the park safely. Avoid speeding and always be aware of your surroundings. You don’t want to startle any animal species, especially a grizzly bear. If you do, you could put yourself and the animal in danger. Bears and other animals with frequent human encounters often get relocated or euthanized.

Pro Tip: Remember while in Grand Teton National Park don’t feed the wildlife! These are 5 Reasons to Not Feed the Wildlife While Camping.

Respect the Wildlife While Exploring the Animals of the Grand Tetons

Visiting Grand Tetons National Park is an unforgettable experience. The massive amount of wildlife you can spot and the landscapes are just the tip of the iceberg about what makes this one of the best national parks in the country. With so many people flocking to visit Yellowstone, it’s easy to underestimate the beauty and majesticness of this marvelous national park.

Top 10 Tips for Visiting Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks in the Summer

While spending time in the Grand Tetons, make sure you respect the wildlife and the park. Clean up your trash and give the wildlife their distance. Getting too close for a picture or approaching the animals in any way can be dangerous for you and the animal. Enjoy a safe trip to the park!

Curious what animals Grand Teton and Yellowstone have in common? Read this: How to See Amazing Yellowstone Wildlife Year-Round

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Tom & Caitlin Morton of Mortons on the Move gave up the stationary life for one where they are constantly on the move. They are full-time travelers, television hosts, and digital media producers.
They left their jobs, sold their house and possessions, and hit the road in September 2015 in their full-time “home on wheels”. Since then they have traveled the US, Canada, and even internationally by RV.
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