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Wildlife has been an essential part of the Cody Yellowstone story from the very beginning. After all, Cody itself is named after founder “Buffalo Bill” Cody, who earned his nickname for hunting the region’s abundant bison population. Just 52 miles from Yellowstone National Park, Cody serves as the perfect base camp for encountering the legendary creatures of the American West. Bison still roam the vast plains surrounding the town, sharing the landscape with bears, moose, elk, and even wolves. Keep your eyes peeled for eagles, owls, hawks, and other birds of prey soaring overhead. You’ll also see our references to the past and present of our wildlife in the Whitney Western Art Museum at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West.

When you visit our incredible landscape, you can explore all the wonderful wildlife experiences available in Cody Yellowstone. Here’s what you can expect from some of our most famous animal residents.

Where to Find Wildlife in Cody Yellowstone

A herd of bison standing next to a geyser in Cody Yellowstone

Where should you go to find the creatures of Cody Yellowstone? Wild animals are unpredictable, but they tend to move around based on the availability of resources like food and water. As a result, your chances of spotting specific animals will depend on the season. The National Park Service offers wildlife watching tips, including where and when to go in Yellowstone for the best sightings. 

Many of our most famous animal populations are thriving as a result of careful human intervention by stewards of this wild landscape! 

It’s No Bull: We’ve Got Lots of Bison

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The history of Bison in Cody Yellowstone is fascinating! Sadly, bison were nearly hunted to extinction by the early 20th century. Thankfully, wildlife managers in Yellowstone protected a small herd, allowing them to repopulate at the Buffalo Ranch in Lamar Valley. Today, close to 5,000 bison roam free in the Greater Yellowstone region. These impressive animals play a vital role in the ecosystem and whether you call them bison (correct!) or buffalo (not quite right!), you’ll find lots of them around here. Baby bison, who you can spot during the springtime, are so cute that they are affectionately known as “red dogs” – they’re fuzzy and rambunctious, just like puppies.

If you’re looking for bison, you can often spot them in Hayden Valley, Lamar Valley, Mammoth Hot Springs, near the North Entrance, and Old Faithful. To ensure their continued success and your safety, remember to practice responsible wildlife viewing when encountering bison. Stay at least 25 yards away from any bison, and keep in mind that despite their bulky appearance, they can actually run three times faster than most people and can be aggressive when they feel threatened. 

Bear With Us

Grizzly bear standing still and looking toward camera on a small hill

There’s a reason our latest interactive trail pass is called Bears in the Basin — the region has a storied history with grizzly bears, black bears, and even world-famous cartoon bears! Grizzly Bears are often spotted at Fishing Bridge, where Yellowstone River meets Yellowstone Lake. They are also frequently seen in Hayden Valley and Lamar Valley. Black Bears can also be seen in the valleys, as well as at Mammoth Hot Springs. We probably don’t need to remind you that bears are dangerous animals. Male grizzly bears can weigh as much as 700 pounds and run up to 40 miles per hour! For your safety and the safety of the bears, park regulations require a minimum distance of 100 yards (91 meters) from bears. The National Park Service provides excellent guides for staying safe in bear country. 

The Moose Are Loose

A portrait of an older bull moose in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem.

Despite their large size (males can weigh up to 1,000 pounds!), moose are quite challenging to track because of their solitary behavior and tendency to frequent more densely forested areas. Unlike other members of the deer family, they do not move in herds, which makes them more difficult to count. Even the young members of the species only get to hang around their mothers for about a year. Once new calves are born, the previous season’s calves are chased away to fend for themselves.

Watch for these majestic creatures near Yellowstone’s Northeast Entrance, South Entrance, and West Thumb areas. Remember, moose are wild animals. If you’re lucky enough to encounter one, admire it from a safe distance and avoid approaching. Moose can be pretty aggressive, so giving them plenty of space is best.

Eyeing Majestic Elk

The Wildlife of Cody Yellowstone

According to the National Park Service, the number of elk present in Yellowstone National Park in the summer typically ranges from 10,000 to 20,000, making them the most abundant population of large mammals in Yellowstone. Unfortunately for the elk, they’re an important food source for many of the area’s meat-eating animals, including bears, mountain lions, and wolves, as well as scavengers like bald eagles and coyotes. 

In the fall, male elk will spend most of the season courting females, especially in the Mammoth Hot Springs region. During this mating season, these male elk, otherwise known as bulls, vie for the attention of females (or cows). Their bugles echo through the park, challenging rivals and announcing their dominance. While you might hope to glimpse these magnificent creatures, their booming bugles are often the first sign of their presence. Elk can also be seen in Hayden Valley, Lamar Valley, Madison, the North Entrance, Old Faithful, and West Thumb. 

Wolves: The Leaders of the Pack

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Gray wolves and Yellowstone National Park have a long and complicated legacy. They were abundant in the area when Yellowstone became the world’s first national park, but they were not a popular attraction — to say the least. In fact, owing to human fear and a legitimate concern for livestock like cattle and sheep, wolves were hunted to eradication in the area by the 1930s. Generations later, important steps have been taken to reintroduce wolves to their natural habitat in the area. In the 1990s, 14 wolves were brought into the park to acclimate to the landscape. The wolves have slowly scattered throughout the region and now comprise a much healthier population in the park, particularly in Lamar Valley. As of 2024, at least 124 wolves are in the park, grouped into around ten packs. According to the National Park Service, the northern range of Yellowstone is now one of the best places in the world to watch wolves.

In terms of safety, wolves typically avoid humans and there has never been a wolf attack on a human in Yellowstone. However, it is crucial to keep your distance. Never approach or feed a wolf, as allowing them to become habituated to humans is dangerous for them and for us. Appreciate these majestic animals from afar and respect their untamed nature.

Cody Yellowstone Is Home to America’s National Bird

An eagle sits in a tree in Cody Yellowstone

When you think of the American West, you probably picture many of the icons and legends that are still present here in Cody Yellowstone: breathtaking landscapes offering endless outdoor adventures, downtown streets featuring small businesses and historical architecture, and the amazing spectacle of the rodeo. Another American icon you might be lucky enough to encounter here is the bald eagle, America’s national bird. The bald eagle was named the national symbol of the United States by Congress in 1782 and continues to be an important symbol of our freedom and resilience. 

Bald eagles are one of more than a dozen species of birds of prey that can be found in Yellowstone. Once classified as an endangered species, the bald eagle has recovered and can be seen near bodies of water where they can find their preferred food: fish and waterfowl. You may spot their nests in large trees near these bodies of water or catch them soaring high in the sky, putting their legendary eyesight to good use as they hunt for prey. 

The wild landscape isn’t the only place in Cody Yellowstone to encounter incredible creatures. Head to the Buffalo Bill Center of the West for five family-friendly museums under one roof as well as the unforgettable Live Raptor Experience at the Draper Natural History Museum. The Raptor Experience is your chance to come face-to-face with some of Wyoming’s incredible birds of prey. Get up close and personal with these magnificent creatures, learning all about their role in the ecosystem and what makes them such skilled hunters. The Draper Natural History Museum is home to eagles, owls, kestrels, and a hawk, falcon, raven, and turkey vulture!

Plan Your Cody Yellowstone Wildlife Adventure

Come and experience close encounters with our wildlife, but not too close! Review our dos and don’ts of animal encounters to stay safe and create a memorable wildlife experience! Start planning your wild adventure today.