Animals of Idaho

The animals of Idaho can be found everywhere you turn. The state is a stage and the animals are the performers….sometimes willing, sometimes not. If they are willing, and you are quiet and stay pretty much motionless, you will be treated to an intimate look at their everyday life. If you are lucky, its a presentation you won’t soon forget.

Image Preview You will find suggestions here about where you can come in contact with these animals. In addition to these ideas, you might simply come across animals of Idaho as you drive through many parts of the state. I live in the northern part of the state in what is known as the Panhandle. I have a few squirrels who live in my neighborhood and I have a yearling moose who visits me on a regular basis. He comes close to my house and chews on my garden shrubs - something I can live with in exchange for the chance to watch him! If I stay still, he's apparently not too concerned with my presence.

Today, I came across two separate whitetail deer while I was out grocery shopping. And, last week, a black bear scampered across the road in front of me when I was driving down a county road. Its all a part of living with nature in Idaho.


Animals of Idaho in the road can be dangerous because motorists sometimes lose control when trying to avoid them. When you come upon a small animal in the road, think of your own safety. Don’t try to dodge it unless you are sure that it is safe to do.

Big game animals, such as moose, elk and deer, can cause severe damage to a vehicle. When you see a large animal on or near the road, slow down and proceed with caution. These are herd animals and others are usually nearby.

They can move into your path quickly, making it impossible to avoid hitting the animal. You must consider hitting the animal as the safest alternative. The impact may damage your vehicle and could kill the animal, but you must concentrate on keeping control of the vehicle before, during, and after the collision.

Image Preview Don’t forget to bring binoculars, cameras, maps and field guides for your viewing excursions for the animals of Idaho!

Here is a list of locations where you might have a chance to observe Idaho’s animals:


45 Ranch Conservation Area - Owyhee Canyonlands
Located in Owyhee County, this ranch area is where the largest population of the threatened California big horn sheep resides. The Canyonlands along with the Conservancy’s 45 Ranch host a population of between 800 and 1000 big horns, a critical habitat for these rare animals. Besides the opportunity of observing the sheep, you may be lucky enough to see mountain lions and bobcats, mule deer and pronghorn antelope, some of the animals of Idaho. The preserve is not staffed and no visitor facilities are available. The Canyonlands are found in southwest corner of Idaho, where the state meets the states of Nevada and Oregon. The roads are unimproved and all services are unavailable. Four-wheel drive is essential and water, provisions and extra fuel should be carried. Not recommended for the inexperienced adventurer. Information: (208) 373-4007

Antelope Interloping
Of all the animals of Idaho, the antelope may be the toughest to get close to. They are skittish. They can be seen, however, in a number of spots across Idaho from Salmon to Mountain Home. Many are found in the desert area of southwest Idaho. Try the Camas Prairie, northeast of Mountain Home between Hill City and the State Route 75 junction. Or, try the Centennial Marsh near Hill City. Another possibility is on the drive to the Bruneau Canyon Overlook, south of Bruneau. Finally, you can see them once in awhile off of Interstate Route 84 between Boise and Mountain Home. Good luck!

Big Springs Nature Trail
While the Big Springs Nature Trail leads to views of osprey, bald eagles and waterfowl, the occasional moose, white-tailed deer and muskrat can also be seen here. The easy trail is handicap-accessible. Drive 3 miles northeast from the Ranger Station at Island Park, Idaho on U.S. Route 20 to Mack’s Inn then right on Forest Route 59. Information: (208) 652-7442

Camas National Wildlife Refuge
The 10,578-acre refuge presents the animals of Idaho. It’s a sanctuary for waterfowl with many geese, ducks, cranes, swans,, herons and egrets nesting here, but atelope, moose, elk, white-tail deer, beaver, muskrat and the occasional mule deer can also be observed. The refuge is north of Idaho Falls. Take Interstate Route 15 to the Hamer, Idaho exit, go north on frontage road, cross the freeway and follow the signs. Information: (208) 662-5423

Garden Creek Ranch Conservation Area
This former ranch is the perfect location for viewing wildlife, wildflowers and rare plants. Encompassing nearly 92,000 acres along the Snake River near Hells Canyon, this refuge is part of the Craig Mountain Wildlife Management Area. It supports Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, elk, black bear, mountain lion and wolverine, in addition to a number of upland game birds, including the ruffed grouse, quail and partridge. Rough terrain. No vehicle access; walk-in only. No facilities. From U.S. Route 12 in Lewiston, Idaho, turn south on Thain Road, then right on Waha Road (#540), then right on Zaza Road (#540). Drive 8 miles and turn left at Madden Corral gate. Information: (208) 788-2203

Minidoka National Wildlife Refuge
Located northeast of Burley, Idaho in South-Central Idaho, this refuge and recreation area is made up of more than 20,000 acres, including 11,000 acre Lake Walcott. Mule deer are year-round residents and pronghorn antelope are occasionally seen. Watch for golden eagles, bald eagles, hawks and owl and, in the spring, expect to see migrating tundra swan. A host of small critters are also present. From Interstate Route 84, turn north on State Route 24 through Rupert and Acequia to the Minidoka Dam Road. Information: (208) 436-3589

Portneuf Wildlife Management Area
This protection area is over 3,100 acres, most of which is mule deer wintering range In addition to the “mulies” at Portneuf, one can expect to find elk and moose, bobcat, mountain lion and coyotes, plus many smaller animals of Idaho. The small critters would include beaver, porcupine, mink, raccoon, yellow-bellied marmots and cottontail rabbits. The Portneuf WMA can be reached by driving northwest out of Pocatello, Idaho on Interstate Route 15 to Exit 57 (Inkom). Turn south on U.S. Route 91. Three marked secondary roads lead to the WMA. Information: (208) 232-4703

Stanley, Idaho Area
Large, grazing herds of elk can often be seen in and around the Stanley, Idaho area in the spring of the year. Wolves are also more evident at these times. Locations are along State Route 75. Study the meadows and even fenced pasturelands.

Wildlife Canyon Scenic Byway
The route is along the Banks-Lowman road, north of Boise, Idaho. It can be accessed either at Banks along State Route 55 or at Lowman along State Route 21. Either point of access brings the traveler back to a route leading to Boise. Herds of elk numbering near one hundred are not an unusual sight along the Wildlife Canyon Scenic Byway, especially near the Danskin river access. Along with the elk, other animals of Idaho that can be seen here are mule deer, whitetail deer, chukars, wild turkeys, eagles, ospreys, cougars, bears, and wolves. Information: (208) 462-5003

Wolf Education and Research Center
This 20 acre educational facility on the Nez Perce Indian Reservation, is the largest wolf enclosure of its kind in North America. Here, wolves of the Sawtooth Pack and wolves of the Nez Perce reside on rolling timberlands with meadows and streams. Visitors have an excellent chance to see wolves in a natural setting. Wolves are an important part of the animals of Idaho. Located off U.S. Route 95 at 518 Joseph Avenue, Winchester, Idaho. Visitor center and gift shop. Open 9am to 5pm daily, from Memorial Day until Labor Day. Admission to observation deck, $5 for adults, $2 for children 6-11. Information: (208) 924-6960

Yellowstone Bear World
Yellowstone Bear World is Greater Yellowstone's only drive-through wildlife preserve. See grizzly bear, black bear, gray wolves and many other North American wildlife all in their natural habitat. Adults, $16.95, Seniors, $15.95, Children 3-10, $12.95, Toddlers (Under 2) Free. Open 9am to 6pm Memorial Day Through Labor Day. Located north of Idaho Falls and 5 mile south of Rexburg, Idaho off U.S. Route 20. Information: (208) 359-9688