No one can deny that the USA has some absolutely amazing wildlife within its borders as its grand size encompasses a wide variety of varying terrains that make it the perfect home for many different creatures. But its size can also make it a problem to actually spot some of these beasts and so unless you know where to look, you may never discover them.
Here we detail the best places to go on the hunt for these majestic animals in order to discover what the USA has on offer.
1. Grizzly Bear
Not that we’d recommend getting too up close and personal with these mighty predators given that some males weigh as much as 1,000 pounds and can reach speeds of 30mps in bursts, but if you keep a safe distance and aren’t stupid about it, they certainly are spectacular creatures. Heading to the Katmai National Park & Preserve in Southern Alaska may be your best bet. Although there are over 4 million acres of wilderness in which the bears could roam, they are often drawn to the abundant salmon found in Brooks Falls where there are viewing platforms so that you might be able to spot them from relative safety.
Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming is also a great option as they are often found around often seen near Yellowstone Lake, Fishing Bridge, and Swan Lake Flats but make sure to check out the bear management areas of the park before setting out.
2. Gray Wolf
Not only does Yellowstone have bears but it also has wolves who can be found down in the Lamar Valley as this is a protected area for the animals and so they remain less fearful of humans in the Lamar Canyon. Dusk and dawn are when they are typically most active and with 98 wolves in ten packs living in Yellowstone, your chances of seeing them are pretty good.
Denali National Park & Preserve is said to have between 7,000 and 11,000 wild wolves roaming the protected area but there are fears this number could soon drop off as hunting in the Alaskan wilds surrounding the park has just been introduced.
3. Polar Bears
Only found in the most Northerly regions of the planet, you’ll have to head to Alaska to spot one in the wild and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, along with Alaska Maritime Refuge, are the only areas within the National Wildlife Refuge System that are home to all three North American bear species.
The Beaufort Sea coastline is the best place to see them in between August to October as they won’t be hibernating then. Several tour operators offer excursions but make sure to keep your distance. Global warming is threatening the habitat of these impressive bears and so fears for their numbers are prevalent.
The largest felines in North America, these big cats can be found all over the Western areas of the United States with approximately 30,000 living in places like California, Arizona, and Texas and a small sub-species also living in Flordia. Also known as Pumas, Panthers and mountain lions, these animals are solitary and travel alone.
Because of this, it is extremely rare to see them in the wild and it would be incredibly lucky (or unlucky if you get too close) to actually spot one in their natural habitat.
5. North American Bison
An icon of the USA, the North American Bison is also known as buffalo and the adult males reach 2,000 pounds in weight on average and because of this, they should be viewed from a safe distance. In Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota, there is a controlled population of about 750 bisons that is found in the badlands of the park.
Custer State Park in neighboring South Dakota has about 1,300 which it rounds up every year to count, which is some task considering their size, weight and ability to hit 35mph.
More commonly associated with the USA’s Northerly neighbor Canada, there are still plenty of moose in the states and the Isle Royale National Park in Maine around lake superior has between 700 and 1,200 with an annual moose watch expedition every summer. Baxter State Park, Maine also plays host to many mostly found in the regions of Western Lakes and Mountains, the Maine Highlands, the Kennebec Valley, and Aroostook County.
Regulating contact with these animals, Baxter offers a limited amount of ‘moose passes’ to visitors each year.
7. Kodiak Bear
The biggest bear on the planet with some weighing in at 1,500 pounds, this sub-species of Grizzly bear became isolated from others some 12,00o years ago when they migrated to the Kodiak Islands in Alaska and this is where you can still find them with around 3,500 bears on the islands.
With a Kodiak Brown Bear Center, they offer guided tours that are a safe enough distance away from the bears as you spot the giant beasts roaming the wilds.
8. Humpback Whale
Migrating from their breeding grounds in Alaska to their feeding grounds in Hawaii every winter, around 10,000 of these massive sea mammals take on this perilous journey with the Hawaiian islands one of the best places to see these gentle giants with adult males reaching up to 45 tons in weight and 60 feet in length.
The whales also gather in the northeast part of the Gulf of Maine and have even been spotted further South in New Jersey.
9. Pacific Walrus
Living in the Bering and Chukchi seas, the only place to see these flabby pinnipeds in the United States is Alaska where there are an estimated 55,000 to 507,000 walruses. Measuring up to 12 feet long and weighing up to two tons, these animals are now becoming endangered due to global warming and loss of environment.
As such, their rarity and aggressiveness mean that Walrus Islands State Game Sanctuary can only be accessed by permit but it is still the best place to find them.
10. Northern Elephant Seals
With their distinctive, floppy noses that resemble elephant’s trunks, these seals head to the Año Nuevo State Park in California in springtime for the breeding season. The largest ‘true seal’ at over 13 feet long and weighing nearly 4,400 pounds, males make quite a racket as they line the beaches and make a loud noise in order to attract a mate.
With spring time being the only real time you can spot these beasts outside of coastal waters, as they spend the rest of it underwater, remember to plan accordingly.
11. Florida Manatee
A distant relative of the elephant, this water-based mammal is usually found in the warm rivers, bays, and oceans of western Florida with Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge being home to almost 600 of them where tour operators offer the chance to go out and see them up close in the water.
Friendly and mostly harmless, their large size makes them sometimes problematic but they are probably the safest creature on this list.