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