Animals of Great Basin National Park: An Adventurer’s Guide!

Animals of Great Basin National Park 1

Great Basin National Park is home to a diverse range of wildlife, from majestic bighorn sheep to elusive bobcats. There’s something magical about seeing these incredible creatures in their natural habitat, and exploring the wilds of this stunning park is an experience that you’ll never forget. 

Join us as we take a journey through the park’s most fascinating animal inhabitants – with our guide to the wildlife of Great Basin National Park, you’ll gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for all the amazing creatures that call this place home. So grab your binoculars, pack some snacks, and let’s hit the trail!

Bighorn Sheep

Bighorn sheep are the largest species of wild sheep in North America. They get their name from their large, curved horns, which can grow up to two feet long. Males (rams) also have thick fur on their necks and shoulders, called a “mane.” 

Females (ewes) are smaller than males and don’t have a mane. Both male and female bighorn sheep have brown fur with white stripes on their legs.

Bighorn Sheep Great Basin National Park

Bighorn sheep live in mountains and foothills in the western United States and Canada. In Great Basin National Park, you can find them near Mount Wheeler and in the Snake Range. Bighorn sheep are good climbers and can jump up to six feet high. 

They use these skills to escape predators and to find food. Bighorn sheep eat grasses, leaves, and flowers. During the winter, when there is less food available, they eat more woody plants.

Bighorn sheep live in herds of 10-30 animals led by a dominant male. Breeding happens in November and December, and lambs are born six months later in May or June. Lambs weigh about 10 pounds at birth but can grow up to 200 pounds as adults!


The Great Basin National Park is home to a variety of wildlife, including bobcats. Bobcats are medium-sized cats that can be found throughout North America. In Great Basin National Park, bobcats can be found in the sagebrush and pinyon-juniper habitats.

Bobcats Sheep Great Basin National Park 1

Bobcats are solitary hunters that stalk their prey. Their diet consists primarily of small mammals, such as rabbits and squirrels. They will also eat reptiles, birds, and insects. Bobcats are nocturnal animals, so they are most active at night.

If you’re lucky enough to see a bobcat in Great Basin National Park, take caution not to approach it or startle it. These animals can be dangerous if they feel threatened. If you do encounter a bobcat, stay calm and give it space to move away.

Yellow-bellied Marmot

The yellow-bellied marmot is a member of the squirrel family and can be found in mountainous regions of North America. These chubby creatures have golden-brown fur, and as their name suggests, a yellow belly. Marmots are the heaviest members of the squirrel family, and can weigh up to 8 pounds.

Yellow bellied Marmot Great Basin National Park

Marmots are social animals and live in colonies of up to 12 individuals. They spend most of their time sunbathing or eating, as they need to build up a thick layer of fat to survive the long winter months. In fact, marmots hibernate for up to seven months out of the year!

These fascinating creatures can be seen at Great Basin National Park in Nevada, where they live among the rocky cliffs and talus slopes. If you’re lucky enough to spot a yellow-bellied marmot, you may see it whistling or barking to warn its colony of potential danger.

Mule Deer

Mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) are the most common ungulate in Great Basin National Park. They are named for their large mule-like ears. Mule deer can be found throughout the park in a variety of habitats, from sagebrush flats to mountain meadows.

Mule Deer Great Basin National Park

Mule deer are browsers, eating a wide variety of plants. In the spring and summer, they prefer green vegetation such as leaves, shoots, and flowers. In the fall and winter, they switch to a diet of twigs and buds. Mule deer are also known to eat acorns, which they find beneath oak trees.

Mating season for mule deer occurs from late November to early December. During this time, bucks will compete for does by engaging in antler wrestling matches. The victor of these matches gets to mate with the doe of his choice. After a gestation period of around 7 months, fawns are born in the spring.

Mule deer are generally calm animals, but they can be dangerous when startled or cornered. If you see a mule deer while hiking in Great Basin National Park, give it plenty of space and do not approach it too closely.

Belding’s Ground Squirrels

There are several different types of squirrels that call Great Basin National Park home, but one of the most interesting is the Belding’s ground squirrel. These squirrels are found in the sagebrush steppe habitat and are well-adapted to the arid conditions.

Beldings Ground Squirrels Great Basin National Park

Belding’s ground squirrels are small, reddish-brown rodents with a light underside. They have large eyes and ears, and their tails are long and fluffy. These squirrels get their name from their habit of burrowing into the ground, where they build extensive tunnel systems.

These squirrels are diurnal, meaning they are active during the day. They spend most of their time foraging for food, which includes seeds, insects, and even small lizards or snakes. In the summer months, Belding’s ground squirrels mate and give birth to litters of 2-6 young.

If you’re lucky enough to see a Belding’s ground squirrel during your visit to Great Basin National Park, be sure to admire from a distance. These creatures may look cute and cuddly, but they can carry diseases that can be harmful to humans (including plague and hantavirus).


Pikas are timid creatures and tend to shy away from humans. However, they will sometimes approach people if they think they might have food. Pikas are herbivores and their diet consists mostly of grasses, herbs, and lichens. In the winter, when food is scarce, pikas may eat the bark off of trees or dig through the snow for scraps of vegetation.

Pika Great Basin National Park

Though pikas are not currently endangered, their populations have declined in some areas due to habitat loss and fragmentation. Pikas are especially vulnerable to climate change because they cannot migrate to new areas as temperatures rise. conservation efforts aimed at protecting pika populations include restoring degraded habitats and preventing further habitat loss.

Pika are small, rodent-like creatures that are closely related to rabbits and hares. They are found in the mountains of North America, Europe, and Asia. Pikas are known for their high-pitched “bark,” which can be heard echoing through the mountains.

In Great Basin National Park, pika can be found in talus fields and rocky areas above the treeline. They are generally shy animals, but can be curious about visitors. Because they are so small, pika are vulnerable to predators such as hawks, owls, and foxes.

Red Foxes

Red foxes can be found in a variety of habitats including forests, grasslands, and even arctic tundra. In Great Basin National Park, red foxes inhabit the lower elevations near the park’s boundaries.

Red Foxes Great Basin National Park

These cunning predators are known for their intelligence and resourcefulness, and they play an important role in the ecosystem by preying on small mammals and rodents. Red foxes are also popular with many birders, as they will often hunt for birds and their eggs.

If you’re lucky enough to spot a red fox during your visit to Great Basin National Park, be sure to keep your distance and admire these beautiful animals from afar.


The Great Basin National Park is home to a variety of wildlife, including coyotes. Coyotes are a type of canine that is closely related to the dog. Coyotes are smaller than wolves and usually have a mix of brown, gray, and black fur. They are common in North America and can be found in many different habitats, including forests, grasslands, and deserts. 

Coyotes Great Basin National Park

Coyotes typically live in packs of six to ten animals, but packs of up to thirty have been observed. The size of the pack usually depends on the availability of food. Coyotes are omnivorous animals and will eat just about anything, including fruits, vegetables, small mammals, and carrion. In some areas, coyotes have become a nuisance because they prey on livestock such as sheep and chickens. 

If you’re lucky enough to see a coyote during your visit to Great Basin National Park, be sure to give them plenty of space. Although they generally avoid humans, they may become aggressive if they feel threatened or if they are protecting their food or young. If you see a coyote while hiking, make sure you keep your distance and do not attempt to feed them.


Elk are massive creatures can weigh up to 1200 pounds and stand six feet tall at the shoulder. Elk are most often seen in the meadows and open forests of the park, but they can also be found in the mountains and along the rivers.

Elk Great Basin National Park

Elk are browsers, which means they eat mostly leaves, twigs, and grasses. In the winter, when food is scarce, elk will eat bark and even lichens off of trees. You can often see elk eating in large groups, called herds. During the mating season, known as rutting, male elk compete for females by bugling–a loud call that echoes through the mountains.

If you’re lucky enough to see an elk in Great Basin National Park, please remember to give them plenty of space. These wild animals can be dangerous if they feel threatened.

Mountain Lion 

Mountain lions, also known as pumas or cougars, are one of the most iconic animals of North America. Although they once ranged across the entire continent, they are now primarily found in the western United States. In Great Basin National Park, mountain lions inhabit the mountains and canyons.

Mountain Lion Great Basin National Park

Mountain lions are large cats, weighing up to 200 pounds. They have tawny fur with black spots on their faces and legs. Mountain lions are solitary predators that hunt at night. They stalk their prey, which can include deer, elk, and bighorn sheep, before leaping on them and killing them with a suffocating bite to the throat.

Although mountain lions are feared by many people, they rarely pose a threat to humans. If you do encounter a mountain lion in Great Basin National Park, stay calm and don’t run away. 

Instead, make yourself look as big as possible by holding your arms out or waving a jacket over your head. Speak firmly and slowly back away from the animal until it loses interest and walks away.

Ringtail Cat 

Ringtail cats are very adept at climbing and jumping, and are able to scale cliffs and trees with ease. They are also excellent swimmers.

Ringtail Cat Great Basin National Park

Despite their name, ringtail cats do not have tails that are particularly long or bushy. Their tail is actually quite short, but it is very muscular and flexible, which allows them to use it like a fifth limb when climbing or jumping. Ringtail cats are mostly nocturnal, so they are not often seen by humans during the day.

Although they are relatively small animals, ringtail cats play an important role in the ecosystem of Great Basin National Park. They help to keep populations of mice and other small rodents in check, which can prevent plant damage and disease transmission.

Pronghorn Antelope

Pronghorn Antelope can weigh up to 150 pounds and measure up to 4 feet at the shoulder, while females are a bit smaller, topping out at around 125 pounds. 

Pronghorn Antelope Great Basin National Park

The pronghorn’s primary predators are coyotes and bobcats, but they will also fall prey to eagles, hawks, and even humans. Pronghorns are herbivores, eating primarily grasses and shrubs. 

Pronghorns are an iconic species of the Great Basin, and one of the main attractions for visitors to see when coming to Great Basin National Park. They are relatively easy to spot due to their size and coloration. 

Pronghorns are generally brown with white underbellies and throats. They have dark patches around their eyes, which help them blend in with their surroundings when they are resting or seeking cover from predators. Pronghorns also have long legs and necks, which give them an elegant appearance.

California Quail

The California Quail is a species of quail found in the western United States and Mexico. The adult male has a black face and topknot, while the female has a gray-brown face and no topknot. Both sexes have a white belly and breast, and brown back and wings. 

California Quail Great Basin National Park

These birds are shy and secretive, and can be difficult to see in the wild. However, their distinctive calls are often heard before the birds are seen.

California Quail can be found in open woodlands, chaparral, and brushy areas throughout Great Basin National Park. They prefer areas with dense ground cover such as grasses or shrubs, where they can find food and shelter from predators. 

During the breeding season, pairs of quail build nests on the ground beneath shrubs or other cover. Females lay 5-12 eggs per clutch, which hatch after about 2 weeks. Both parents care for the young chicks until they are old enough to fly and fend for themselves.

These birds are omnivorous, feeding on a variety of seeds, berries, insects, and other small animals. In winter months, when food is scarce, they will form large flocks known as “coveys” in order to increase their chances of finding food. 

California Quail are an important part of the ecosystem in Great Basin National Park, providing food for predators such as foxes and snakes, as well as controlling populations of small mammals and insects through their for

Clark’s Nutcrackers

Clark’s nutcrackers are very intelligent and have a very special relationship with the park’s lodgepole pine trees. 

Clarks Nutcrackers Great Basin National Park

The nutcrackers collect the pine nuts from the cones of the trees and store them in small holes that they dig in the ground. They then use their long, curved beaks to crack open the nuts and eat the meat inside.

The nutcrackers play an important role in the growth and reproduction of the lodgepole pines. When they store nuts in the ground, they help to spread pine seeds around the forest floor. 

This helps to ensure that new lodgepole pines will grow in areas where there were none before. The Clark’s nutcrackers are an important part of the ecological balance in Great Basin National Park.

Black-headed Grosbeak

The black-headed grosbeak (Pheucticus melanocephalus) is a medium-sized songbird with a black head, throat, and upper back, and yellow wings and tail. Males also have a yellow breast, while females are brownish-yellow. Both sexes have white bellies and grayish legs. Black-headed grosbeaks are found in western North America, from Alaska to Mexico.

Black headed Grosbeak Great Basin National Park

In Great Basin National Park, black-headed grosbeaks can be found in montane forests and riparian habitats near meadows and streams. They eat insects, spiders, berries, and seeds. Black-headed grosbeaks build nests of twigs, grasses, leaves, and mosses in trees or shrubs. Females lay 3-5 eggs per clutch.

Black-headed grosbeaks are vocal birds with a variety of songs and calls. The male’s song is a series of loud notes that rise and fall in pitch, while the female’s call is a softer trill. Black-headed grosbeaks are not currently listed as threatened or endangered. However, their numbers have declined in recent years due to habitat loss and fragmentation.

Western Kingbird 

The Western Kingbird (Tyrannus verticalis) is a medium-sized flycatcher found throughout the western United States and Mexico. It is the largest member of the genus Tyrannus, and one of the most widespread tyrant flycatchers in North America. The Western Kingbird is a highly versatile bird, able to adapt to a variety of habitats. 

Western Kingbird Great Basin National Park

The Western Kingbird is a grayish-brown bird with a white belly and chest. The wings are dark with two white bars, and the tail is long and narrow with a forked tip. The bill is black and hooked, and the legs are black. The adult male has a orange-red crown, while the adult female has a brown crown. Juveniles have no crown coloration. 

The Western Kingbird feeds on insects, which it catches in mid-air or on the ground. It will also eat berries and fruit. The Western Kingbird nests in trees, shrubs, or cacti, usually near open areas such as fields or roadsides. The nest is built by both parents out of twigs, leaves, grasses, paper, cloth, feathers, string, or other materials. 

The Western Kingbird is not considered to be threatened or endangered at this time. However, like all birds, it is affected by habitat loss due to human activity such as agriculture, logging, and development.

Black-tailed Jack Rabbit

The black-tailed jackrabbit is a species of hare that is found in the Great Basin region of North America. The adult jackrabbit is typically between 18 and 24 inches long, with black fur on its back and white fur on its belly. Its tail is black with a white tip, and it has long hind legs that allow it to leap great distances.

Black tailed Jack Rabbit Great Basin National Park

The jackrabbit is a timid creature that spends most of its time hiding in the sagebrush. It emerges at dawn and dusk to feed on grasses and other vegetation. If frightened, the jackrabbit will run away in a zigzag pattern to avoid being caught.

The black-tailed jackrabbit is an important part of the food chain in the Great Basin region. It is preyed upon by coyotes, foxes, bobcats, and hawks.

Wilderness Areas in The Great Basin National Park

There are several wilderness areas within Great Basin National Park, each with their own unique ecosystems and wildlife. The Wheeler Peak Wilderness is the largest, spanning over 89,000 acres. This area is home to alpine lakes and meadows, as well as rocky peaks and glaciers. The ancient bristlecone pine forest is also found here.

Wilderness Areas in The Great Basin National Park 1

The Snake Range Wilderness is another popular destination, encompassing 64,000 acres. This area gets its name from the snake-like ridgeline that runs through it. It’s home to several species of trees, including aspens and Jeffrey pines. You might also see mule deer, porcupines, and golden eagles in this wilderness area.

If you’re looking for a less crowded wilderness experience, check out the South Schell Creek Range Wilderness. This remote area spans nearly 50,000 acres and includes alpine lakes, meadows, forests, and granite peaks. Keep your eyes peeled for bighorn sheep and Roosevelt elk in this wilderness area. 

Finally, the Strawberry Creek Wilderness is a small area tucked away at the southern end of Great Basin National Park. With lower elevations than many other wilderness areas in the park, you’ll find more trees here such as juniper and pinyon pine. Look for mountain lions, bats, and marmots during your hike.

Wildlife viewing tips in The Great Basin National Park

There are a few things to keep in mind when wildlife viewing in The Great Basin National Park. First, remember that all animals in the park are wild and should not be approached. 

Also, please do not feed the animals as this can disrupt their natural diet and behavior patterns. Finally, please be considerate of other visitors and do not block trails or viewpoints while you are observing wildlife.

Some of the best places to view wildlife in The Great Basin National Park are along the Lehman Caves trail, where you might see bats; near Wheeler Peak summit, where you might see pika; in sagebrush meadows near Baker Creek or at Lower Lehman Creek campground, where you might see pronghorn antelope; or along roadsides early morning or evening hours, where you might see mule deer. 

 binoculars are always helpful for getting a closer look at wildlife from a distance. 

Be sure to follow the park rules when viewing and photographing wildlife. If you observe any wildlife that appears to be injured or in distress, please report it to a Park Ranger as soon as possible. 

 Finally, please leave no trace of your visits and do not disturb any wildlife habitat.

Wildlife on the Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive

The Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive in Great Basin National Park is a great way to see wildlife. The drive takes you through a variety of habitats, including sagebrush steppe, aspen and conifer forests, and subalpine meadows.

wheeler peak drive The Great Basin National Park

Along the way, you might spot some of the park’s resident wildlife, including bighorn sheep, mule deer, pronghorn antelope, bobcats, and several species of birds. Keep your eyes peeled and your camera ready – you never know what you’ll see! 


Great Basin National Park is home to an amazing variety of diverse wildlife, and now you know their names and know a bit about each one! With this newfound knowledge of the area’s inhabitants, you can go out into the park with a greater appreciation for all the creatures that call it home. Whether you are looking for bighorn sheep trails or glimpses of a mountain lion in action, this park has it all – so pack your binoculars and enjoy exploring!

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