Wildlife in Glacier National Park: Safety Tips and Hot Spots

Glacier National Park has 60 mammal species and more than 260 species of birds; bring the binoculars to aid in wildlife-watching.

moose and calf surrounded by forest
Wildlife lovers can see 60 mammal species and more than 260 species of birds. Photo © sekernas/iStock.

Hot Spots for Viewing Wildlife in Glacier National Park

  • Inside Road: Spot elusive gray wolves on this uncrowded dirt road at dawn or dusk.
  • McGee Meadows: The North Fork Valley houses 196 bird species. McGee Meadows bustles with snipes, soras, and red-tailed hawks.
  • Avalanche Paths: In early spring, grizzly bears prowl for carcasses in avalanche slopes on Mount Cannon and the Glacier Wall on Going-to-the-Sun Road.
  • Logan Pass: Mountain goats and bighorn sheep wander through the parking lot at Logan Pass and frequent the Hidden Lake Overlook trail.
  • Two Dog Flats: In spring and late fall, elk feed in early morning at Two Dog Flats near Rising Sun while aspens attract woodpeckers, flickers, and owls.
  • St. Mary and Virginia Falls: These two waterfalls create perfect habitat for dark, bobbing American dippers.
  • Mounts Henkel and Altyn: Grizzly and black bears feed on huckleberries on these two peaks in Many Glacier in late summer.
  • Swiftcurrent Valley: A gentle hike runs through moose country to Red Rock and Bullhead Lakes. Listen for white-crowned sparrows, loons, Clark’s nutcrackers, and golden eagles.
  • Goat Lick: On U.S. 2, the natural mineral lick attracts mountain goats in early summer.
  • Waterton Lakes: Waterton’s Maskinonge and Linnet Lakes wetlands abound with ospreys, swans, and kingfishers.
  • Bison Paddock: The Waterton bison paddock houses a small herd of shaggy bovines that once roamed wild.
  • Kootenai Lakes: Hop the Waterton tour boat and hike to Glacier’s Kootenai Lakes to see moose and trumpeter swans.

Tips for Safely and Successfully Viewing Wildlife

  • Safety for you and safety for the wildlife is important. For spying wildlife up close, use a good pair of binoculars.
  • Do not approach wildlife. Although our inclinations tell us to scoot in for a closer look, crowding wildlife puts you at risk and endangers the animal, often scaring it off. Sometimes simply the presence of people can habituate an animal to hanging around people; with bears, this can lead to more aggressive behavior.
  • Let the animal’s or bird’s behavior guide your behavior. If the animal appears twitchy, nervous, or points eyes and ears directly at you, back off: You’re too close. The goal is to watch wild animals go about their normal business, rather than to see how they react to disruption. If you behave like a predator stalking an animal, the creature will assume you are one. Use binoculars and telephoto lenses for moving in close rather than approaching an animal.
  • Most animals tend to be more active in morning and evening. These are also optimum times for photographing animals in better lighting.
  • Blend in with your surroundings. Rather than wearing loud colors, wear muted clothing that matches the environment.
  • Relax. Animals sense excitement. Move slowly around them because abrupt, jerky movements can startle them. Look down, rather than staring animals directly in the eye.
  • Don’t get carried away watching big, showy megafauna like bears and moose only to miss a small carnivore like a short-tailed weasel.
  • Use field guides to help with identification and understanding the animal’s behavior.
  • If you see wildlife along a road, use pullouts or broad shoulders to drive completely off the road. Do not block the middle of the road. Use the car as a blind to watch wildlife, but keep pets inside. If you see a bear, you’re better off just driving by slowly. Bear jams tend to condition the bruin to become accustomed to vehicles, one step toward getting into more trouble.
  • Travel map of Glacier National Park
    Glacier National Park

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