Skip to Content
BTNF Alerts & Closures Current Fire Danger is Low

Wildlife Watching

See animals as wild as the landscape.

The BTNF is an instrumental part of the 15+ million Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. You might have heard or read that the GYE is one of the last intact temperate ecosystems in the world; if you haven’t heard this, know that the GYE is one of the last intact temperate ecosystems in the world. This fact is just as remarkable as Yellowstone National Park being home to half of the world’s geysers. An “intact ecosystem” is one in which all of the animals that existed prior to the arrival of European explorers and settlers still live.

Centuries ago, moose, wolves, bison, elk, eagles, sandhill cranes, trumpeter swans, grizzly and black bears, bighorn sheep, bald eagles, elk, and mountain lions lived on or migrated through the lands that is now the BTNF … and all of these species still live wild on the forest today. The BTNF supports 355 species of birds, 6 species of reptiles, 74 species of mammals, 6 species of amphibians, and 25 species of fish, including the magnificent and endemic Snake River fine-spotted cutthroat trout.

Wildlife watching is one of the least physically demanding activities you can do on the BTNF, but carries some of the highest consequences, not only for you, but also for the animals.

Take the #100yardpledge.

Launched by several Wyoming-based groups, #100yardpledge promotes safe, responsible wildlife viewing and photography, especially of grizzly bears. Grizzlies are apex predators, but becoming comfortable being around humans can cause them to be killed by wildlife managers.

Watch Wildlife Safely

  1. This seems obvious, but the animals on the BTNF are wild. Wild animals are unpredictable and can be defensive, especially when they’re hungry (like bears coming out of or going into hibernation) or have babies.
  2. The general recommendation is that you stay 25 yards from most wildlife and 100 yards from predators like bears and wolves, but these are minimums. Even if you’re 150 yards from a moose, if it’s snuffing or pawing the ground, you’re too close. If an animal is reacting to your presence, move farther away. (Not sure what 25 or 100 yards look like? 1 yard = one adult stride.)
  3. Never, ever, EVER feed wildlife. This hurts animals in several  ways: 1. Human food is bad for the teeth and digestive systems of many species. 2. Animals dependent upon handouts can lose their ability to find their own natural food and then die when winter comes and no one feeds them. 3. Feeding animals can make them lose their fear of humans, which can make them easy targets for hunters. 4. Fed animals will start associating humans with food and coming into populated areas. With some species, like squirrels, this is merely a nuisance, with other species, like bears and mountain lions, this can be dangerous, and, to prevent humans from being hurt, wildlife managers either relocate or kill these animals. There is truth to the saying, “A fed bear is a dead bear.”


Professional skier Lynsey Dyer and BTNF wildlife biologist Jason Wilmot talk about why it’s important for backcountry skiers to respect winter wildlife closures.


We acknowledge with respect that our facilities are situated on the aboriginal land of the Shoshone Bannock. Eastern Shoshone. Northern Arapaho. Crow. Assiniboine. Sioux. Gros Ventre. Nez Perce.

Let's be friends; sign up for our newsletter