The mountain ecosystem of the Gallatin National Forest provides
outstanding wildlife habitat for many species - some of which
happen to be very rare in the lower 48. From winding rivers to
majestic snowcapped peaks, the Gallatin National Forest has a
wide range of habitat for numerous species.
All of the species that were here before European settlement still
exist in the Gallatin, making it one of the few areas in the lower
48 to have those bragging rights. The Gallatin National Forest
supports over three hundred species of animals! The most famous
of these animals is the grizzly bear. These bears still roam the
forest, with most of the population near the border with Yellowstone.
Your chances of seeing these bears while in the forest is very
slim. The forest is also home to bald eagles, golden eagles, moose,
elk, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, pronghorn, black bear, mountain
lion, pine marten, bobcat, lynx, mule deer and whitetail deer.
A black bear rises to greet me in the Gallatin
To be perfectly honest, viewing wildlife is more difficult in
the Gallatin National Forest compared to Yellowstone because of
the very thick tree cover and rugged terrain. There are just as
many animals, they are just harder to see. If you wish to view
wildlife consistently and more easily, Yellowstone is your best
bet and is a relatively short drive away. But for those of us
who prefer no crowds, there are opportunities to view wildlife
in the Gallatin in a much more peaceful setting. For example,
spending time along the forest roads near sunset and sunrise will
most certainly get you some glimpses of grouse and wild turkey.
You also have a very good chance of observing deer this way. In
general, these hours of the day are always preferable for seeing
wildlife. The animals are up early, and if you want to see them,
you should be too. The moose image on this page was taken past
sunset in an aspen patch a couple of summers ago. This particular
moose would not reveal itself unless it was the crack of dawn
American Dipper: Fast streams in the forest.
Bald Eagle: Yellowstone River, Gallatin River, Boulder
River, Madison River, Hebgen Lake, Quake Lake.
Osprey: Yellowstone River, Gallatin River, Boulder River,
Madison River, Hebgen Lake, Quake Lake.
Golden Eagle: Meadow areas with high cliffs, prairie areas
bordering start of national forest.
Elk: Paradise Valley upper meadows, Gardiner area.
Grizzly bear: Eagle Creek campground and area north of
Black bear: Berry patches along roads in fall early and
late(see image on camping page)
Wolf: Good luck! You can try to glass for them in open
areas during the fall and winter.
Pine Marten: Mature conifer or mixed wood forests away
from landscape disturbances. These guys will know you are coming
from a mile away. Very difficult to see in the wild.
Wolverine: High alpine areas. You could live on the forest
for one hundred years and never see one, but they are there.
Mountain lion: All over the forest but difficult to see.
Bighorn: Yankee Jim Canyon near Gardiner.
Pronghorn: Around Gardiner but also just south of Big Timber
on Main Boulder Road.
Mule Deer: All over the forest, but north of Big Timber
on way to Crazy Mountains in low light hours proves great viewing.
Be incredibly careful though as the deer density there is through
River Otter: Yellowstone River, Madison River.
Badger: Open areas bordering start of national forest.
Moose: All over the forest, but key in on water sources
such as rivers, bogs and lakes in the early morning and evening
A big bull moose feeding in late summer.
Porcupine: Montane forests, sage brush lands and near streams.
Beaver: Ponds, small lakes, meandering streams.
Owls: All over the forest during low light times where forest
meets open areas. Did you know Montana has more species of owls
than any other place in the lower 48?
Northern Flying Squirrel: Montana and subalpine coniferous
Yellow-Bellied Marmot: Talus slopes and rock outcrops in
or near meadows.
Snowshoe Hare: Thick stands of young timber. They are easily
Bison: NE corner of Yellowstone which borders Gallatin
National Forest. This is known as the Cooke City area and Beartooth
Mountain Goats: The Crazy Mountains north of Big Timber.
Start at Half Moon campground.
Lynx: Where there are snowshoe hare. Rare.
Prairie rattlesnake: lower elevations.
Western Painted turtle: lower elevations
Ornate box turtle: lower elevations
Top image note: This moose was hanging out where an aspen patch
meets a meadow about 70 yards from a medium sized river in the
Gallatin National Forest. These animals only tend to reveal themselves
around sunrise or sunset, and this one was at sunset. I kept my
distance and respected the wild animal while it fed. your best
chance of spotting moose is to spend time near areas with water
NEW! Gallatin National Forest campground
tours are now available! Our universal files work on any iPod
or computer. Those interested in less crowded campgrounds near
Yellowstone will want to view this pack. Click the iPod to order.
Parkcamper: Northern Rocky
Mountains Edition features
the campgrounds of Glacier,
Yellowstone, Grand Teton,
Badlands and Theodore
Roosevelt National Parks.
Click the DVD to order!