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Larissa Runkle | 09.13.2019

The allure of spotting wildlife is among the top reasons to visit the outdoors. Your first view of a creature you’ve never seen before is at once an inspiring and magical experience, and one that stays with you. While the less-traveled hiker might assume wild animals and exotic birds are around every corner, the regular trailblazers know what a rarity these occurrences actually are.

As their natural habitats shrink, so does the wildlife population. You can hike forests where grizzlies used to roam freely, though they have now been hunted to the point of endangerment and have had their territories shifted further north. You can wander trails that see only a fraction of the deer and elk they used to. The sad fact is that our wild areas are always becoming less wild. Which is why taking a moment to appreciate them as they are today is so vital to our understanding of the natural world.

All over the country stewards of the land have fought to create national parks, refuges, and other protected areas to prevent the extinction of species and the exploitation of natural resources. Because of generations of hard work and preservation, there still exist a fair number of places you can go to step out into the wild and see landscapes as they were meant to be and have been for thousands of years.

Wildlife inhabit nearly all corners and coastlines of the country, but there are some regions where you are more likely to have see wildlife than others. Along the West Coast you can see families of sea lions, gray whales and sea otters, while elk, grizzlies, and black bears are found on land in various coastal and mountain regions. Inland, Yellowstone National Park remains a pillar of the North American ecosystem, providing wide open spaces for bison and bears to roam. On the East Coast, deer, bear, fox, and wild cats still inhabit many of the wooded areas, and protected marshlands and bayous of the southeast provide bird and even alligator sanctuaries that are accessible to wildlife viewing.

Below are a few places to guide your wildlife adventures. Remember to follow local park guidelines on safe food storage and educate yourself on safe behavior and proximity to these animals before visiting. It's often humans that put animals and their habitats in danger, and reading up in advance can go a long way toward keeping these amazing places wild. 

Oregon

Washington

California

Montana

Wyoming    

The Northeast

Southeast

This article has been updated. It was originally published in September 2017 by Larissa Runkle.

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Comments

10/23/2019
This sentence, "It's often humans that put animals and their habitats in danger", needs to be updated to "It's often humans AND THEIR DOGS that put animals and their habitats in danger".

To view wildlife, the dog has to be left in the car or at home. Dogs and wildlife do not mix. I know this seems like common sense but I've interacted with too many people who don't get it. Wilderness is an off leash dog park to them.
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