Like so many national parks in the US West, Yosemite is an outstanding haven for wildlife. You don’t have to stray far from paved roads to spot a black bear sow and her cubs foraging in a grassy meadow, or a red fox racing across new-fallen snow.
On just about any hiking trail, you’re likely to encounter a mule deer bounding through the forests filled with the songs and calls of myriad species of birds. Endangered bighorn sheep tenaciously survive at higher elevations, where yellow-bellied marmots dart among the granite talus, ever curious about human interlopers in their high Sierra Nevada home.
At almost the same breathtaking altitudes, the park’s Tuolumne Meadows is famous for its summer displays of alpine wildflowers. Groves of giant sequoias grow throughout Yosemite, Sequoia, and Kings Canyon National Parks. In the eastern Sierra Nevada you can find stands of ancient bristlecone pines, the oldest trees on Earth.
Of all the megafauna found in Yosemite National Park, black bears are what most people come to see. (The last grizzly bear was destroyed in California in the early 1920s.) If you’re lucky, you’ll observe a black bear in the wild behaving naturally, for example, foraging for berries and flowers or ripping apart logs to snag the tasty insects living underneath the bark. In park campgrounds and other developed areas, as well as during backcountry trips, proper storage of food and other scented items is of critical importance, both to protect yourself and wild bears. > See More
Just about the most easily spotted animal in the park, mule deer are almost everywhere you look, whether bounding across meadows or grazing beside trails in the forest. Mule deer are easily recognized by the shape of their ears, which really do resemble mules’ ears, and by their tails, most often white with black tips. Despite being preyed upon by mountain lions, mule deer are among the most prolific fauna in the park. You can see them year-round, but their most active time is in the fall, when males energetically battle each other for mates during the rutting season. > See More
Few visitors to the Sierra Nevada will casually stumble across bighorn sheep, which inhabit the rocky high country of the Sierra Nevada. Their agility and sure-footedness are sure to astound, however, as you glimpse them leaping along mountainsides and effortlessly scaling vertiginous cliffs. Like mule deer, bighorn sheep rut dramatically in autumn. As temperatures cool further and winter approaches, bighorn sheep migrate down from Tioga Pass to lower elevations on the east side of the Sierra Nevada range. An endangered species, they are threatened not only from predation by mountain lions, but also from the loss of their natural habitat. Seeing one in the wild is a special gift. > See More
Look skyward in Yosemite Valley and you may just catch sight of a peregrine falcon doing incredible dives as it hunts its prey. Making a comeback from the brink of extinction, these raptors now nest in Yosemite’s plentiful granite walls and domes. If you listen at night, you may hear the call of a great gray owl reverberating through the forests at higher elevations, where you’ll also hear the noisy hoots of male blue grouse. And these are just a few of the many species that birders can check off their life lists here – and we’ll show you where. > See More