Bison Birthday Party is Saturday, June 29th| SUMMER HOURS:  Open from 10am-4pm daily EXCEPT Tuesdays. Book tours early as they fill up quickly in the summer. 

Bison Birthday Party is Saturday, June 29th | SUMMER HOURS: Open from 10am-4pm daily EXCEPT Tuesdays. Book tours early as they fill up quickly in the summer.

Providing lifelong sanctuary to non-releasable Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem wildlife while sharing a message of education and conservation.

Switch the Screech Owl at Yellowstone Wildlife Sanctuary

History Highlights

Lifelong care for non-releasable animals since 1983.

Bison - Speedy

Our Residents

How resident animals and birds come to YWS.

Dahlia the Red Fox at Yellowstone Wildlife Sanctuary

Our Funding

YWS is a charitable nonprofit organization.

History Highlights

The history of Yellowstone Wildlife Sanctuary reflects society’s developing respect for wildlife over the past several decades. 

It began in 1983 when a community group formed the Red Lodge Zoological Society. Within a few years, the group opened a site in Red Lodge’s Coal Miners Park, with a children’s petting zoo and hoofed animals on display. A few years later, the organization was renamed Beartooth Nature Center, as the focus turned to caring for wildlife unable to live in the wild and educating visitors about the natural world.

In 2001, the City of Red Lodge transferred ownership of what is now the YWS campus to BNC, which helped stabilize the organization. Dedicated volunteers established gardens on the grounds, and a substantial donation of plants and supplies ensured that the gardens would remain an enduring feature. 

In 2012, the name was changed to Yellowstone Wildlife Sanctuary:

  • Yellowstone meaning the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, where we’re located.
  • Wildlife meaning species native to the GYE. Our resident animals cannot live in the wild because they’re injured, orphaned, or habituated to human care.
  • Sanctuary meaning a lifelong home. We ensure proper care and enrichment, space where the animal can retreat from visitors, and compassion through the end of life.

The organization’s purpose was further focused on providing lifelong sanctuary for GYE wildlife and promoting wildlife education and conservation. In 2018, the last of the non-native animals (turtles) were relocated. The American Sanctuary Association first accredited YWS in 2019, after an extensive review process and on-site inspection. 

Today, YWS welcomes thousands of visitors annually and reaches a large online audience with educational messages. 

Cooper the Raccoon at Yellowstone Wildlife Sanctuary
Cooper the Raccoon at Yellowstone Wildlife Sanctuary
Cooper the Raccoon at Yellowstone Wildlife Sanctuary
Bison - Speedy

How Resident Animals and Birds Come to YWS

Our animals and birds often come from wildlife rehabilitators who find that the animal or bird can’t recover its physical condition or develop the skills to live in the wild. We sometimes accept animals that another sanctuary or other facility must relocate. Wild “pets” are sometimes surrendered to us. YWS is licensed by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks and the US Department of Agriculture, which must give approval before we can accept any animal or bird.

Our Funding

YWS is a charitable nonprofit organization. We depend on donations from caring, generous people like you. We do not receive funding from Yellowstone National Park, U.S. National Park Service, or any government entity. Our mission is accomplished through donations from individuals and grants from foundations and corporations.

In 2022, YWS received its second Charity Navigator Encompass Rating of 100, signifying excellence based on the ratio of expenses to program fulfillment. We have received the Candid (GuideStar) Platinum Seal of Transparency every year since 2019.