Colors are changing and the air is crisp across most of the country during the fall. It’s also a great time to spot wildlife! Here is a short list of what you might find. Check with your nearest park for information about wildlife watching opportunities.

Monarch butterfly on purple flower
Monarch Butterfly

NPS Photo

Annual Monarch Butterfly Migration

Monarch butterfly migration is classified as a "Threatened Phenomenon" by the International Union for Conservation and Natural Resources, and spans multiple generations. Traveling between 50–100 miles a day, the monarch's migratory journey may be 3,000 miles long and take two months to complete. Starting in Mexico they start their journey north cutting across multiple national parks, including Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Muir Woods National Monument, Shenandoah National Park, Theodore Roosevelt National Park, and Zion National Park.

Channel Islands Whale jumping out of the water
Humpback whale

NPS Photo

Whales in Channel Islands National Park, California

The waters of Channel Islands National Park are home to many wildlife species, including whales. The most common sightings of gray whales occur from mid/late December through mid-March, but sightings can happen year-round. Be on the lookout for humpbacks, pilot whales, and bottlenose dolphins, too! The park has detailed information about when to visit on their website.

Bull elk with two cows
Bull elk with cows

NPS Photo

Elk in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

The elk rut, or mating season, in Rocky Mountain National Park typically lasts from mid-September to mid/late October. They’re known to gather, by the hundreds, in one location. Listen closely, you could hear an elk bugling!

Beaver chewing trees
Beaver chewing trees

NPS Photo

Beavers at Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota

Talk about busy beavers! Once fall hits, these animals are busy inspecting and repairing any damages to their lodges in preparation for winter. They can be seen swimming along the shoreline of large lakes in Voyageurs National Park where they cut down trees. You’ll be able to tell if a beaver lodge is active by the freshly peeled logs and fresh coating of mud.

Last updated: October 21, 2019


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