Idaho is a very beautiful state full of wonderful landscapes and picturesque views. Naturally, this goes together with rich and diverse wildlife.
This state has a lot to offer when it comes to fascinating animals that you can spot in the wild. Here are some of the most common ones that Idaho is famous for:
Elk are one of the most common and iconic animals in Idaho. They are present throughout the state and Idaho is home to some of the largest elk populations in the entire United States. Adult male elk, known as bulls, can weigh up to 1,000 pounds.
Females, or cows, can weigh up to 500 pounds and are noticeably different. Elk are herbivores and primarily feed on grasses, shrubs, and bark. During the fall, they can be heard bugling, a distinctive vocalization used to attract mates and establish dominance.
Idaho is home to both mule deer and white-tailed deer. Mule deer are the more common species and can be found in a variety of habitats like forests, grasslands, and deserts. White-tailed deer are found primarily in northern Idaho but also in some other North American countries and prefer forested habitats.
Both species are herbivores and feed on a variety of plants, including grasses, leaves, and twigs. Also, both are popular game animals hunted for their meat and as trophies.
Black bears are common in many areas of Idaho, particularly in the northern part of the state. They are omnivores and will eat a variety of foods, from berries and nuts to insects and small mammals.
They are also known to scavenge on carrion (dead animal meat) and raid garbage cans and campsites in search of food. Adult black bears can weigh up to 400 pounds and are primarily active during the night.
The more popular species of bear, grizzly bears were once common throughout much of the western United States, including Idaho. Today, they are primarily found in the northern part of the state, particularly in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem near the Wyoming border.
Adult grizzly bears can weigh up to 600 pounds and are omnivores. They can eat a variety of foods including berries, roots, insects, fish, and small mammals. Grizzly bears are listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act and are protected in Idaho.
Also known as cougars or pumas and often confused for bobcats, mountain lions are found in many areas of Idaho. They are solitary and elusive animals and are rarely seen by humans. Adult mountain lions can weigh up to 200 pounds and are carnivores, feeding primarily on deer and other mammals.
They are ambush predators and use their stealth and agility to capture prey. Difficult to spot, they are commonly heard thanks to their distinctive roar.
Another predatorial omnivore species on the list, the coyote is present in most of the state and is known for its distinctive howl. It is an adaptable animal and can survive in a variety of habitats including forests, grasslands, and urban areas.
Coyotes are opportunistic predators and will eat anything. This includes rodents, rabbits, insects, and even carrion.
Moose are only present in the northern part of Idaho, particularly in the panhandle region. They are the largest member of the deer family and can weigh up to 1,500 pounds, a lot bigger than the elk. Moose are herbivores and feed on aquatic vegetation and woody plants.
Adult males, known as bulls, have distinctive antlers that can span up to six feet across. They are a sight to behold in their natural habitat.
Gray wolves were once extirpated from Idaho but were reintroduced in 1995. Today, they are primarily found in the northern part of the state, especially the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Gray wolves are social animals that live in packs and are carnivores.
They prefer to hunt primarily elk, deer, and other ungulates. Adult gray wolves can weigh up to 150 pounds.
Best Locations to See Wild Animals
From dangerous predators to passive herbivores, Idaho wildlife is truly special. But where should one go for a chance to see them up close? Make sure to visit some of the following places if you are interested in animal watching in Idaho:
1. Lolo National Forest and Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness
These areas in northern Idaho are known for their large elk and moose populations. Visitors can often spot these majestic animals grazing in meadows or crossing streams. The Lolo National Forest is also home to several other species of wildlife, including black bears, coyotes, and mountain lions.
2. St. Joe National Forest and Nez Perce National Forest
These two lush forests in northern Idaho are home to mule deer. They are often seen grazing in open meadows or crossing streams. Visitors to these forests may also spot other animals mentioned above including black bears, coyotes, and mountain lions.
3. Coeur d’Alene National Forest and Panhandle National Forest
Another two forests of the northern Idaho region, they are home to white-tailed deer. Like its mule cousin, it can be seen grazing in forest clearings or along the edges of rivers and streams. Visitors may also spot other species of wildlife, including the black bear.
4. Clearwater National Forest
This major forest in northern Idaho is famous for its large population of black bears that can often be seen foraging for food in the forest. Visitors may also spot (or at least hear) coyotes and mountain lions in this area.
The Clearwater National Forest is also home to several species of fish thanks to the North Fork of the Clearwater and the Lochsa. The miles upon miles of whitewater make it a popular destination for fishing enthusiasts.
5. Payette National Forest
You guessed it, this forest is also located in the north of the state. It is home to black bears, coyotes, and mountain lions. Apart from its wildlife and vegetation appeal, the Payette National Forest is also a popular destination for hiking and camping.
Tourists and visitors frequently come here for some outdoor recreation and quality time in nature.
6. Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness
This wilderness area in central Idaho is famous for its large population of black bears that often forage the area in search of their next meal. Coyotes and mountain lions are frequent as well. The river here is a great spot for anglers as it is home to several interesting species of fish.
Do not let that “No Return” part of the name scare you, this is a real paradise.
7. Owyhee Canyonlands
Located in southwestern Idaho, this area is home to coyotes that can always be heard howling in the evenings. Visitors may also spot golden eagles, pronghorn antelope, and bighorn sheep in this region.
The Owyhee Canyonlands are a popular destination for hiking and camping, too. A few days here is all you need to reconnect with nature.
8. Sawtooth National Recreation Area
This central Idaho region is a natural habitat for mountain lions, elk, mule deer, and black bears. The Sawtooth National Recreation Area has stunning mountain scenery, making it a popular destination for hiking and camping.
The views are breathtaking and worthy of every photo. If you love scenic mountain hikes or camping trips, this is the place.
9. Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem
This area includes the famed Yellowstone National Park and surrounding areas in several states including Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. It is home to the legendary grizzly bear as well as the gray wolf, two of the most iconic predator species of wildlife in North America. Visitors may also spot elk, bison, and moose while exploring it.
The area is for its unparalleled and stunning natural beauty and is a popular destination for hiking, camping, and wildlife watching.
Conclusion: What are You Waiting For?
We assume what you read here is enough to make you want to visit Idaho and see its wild animals. The beautiful state is waiting with its rich and diverse wildlife and the stunning places they call home. Include several of them whenever you decide to go, especially the northern forests that are close together.
This is a promise: you will surely fall in love with nature no matter which place you pick.