8 Route 66 Wildlife Encounters You Need to See To Believe!

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Ever wanted to get up close and personal with wildlife along the iconic Route 66? From funny burros in Oatman to prowling coyotes in Williams, this famous highway offers plenty of animal encounters.

Get your cameras ready for bison, deer, bears, and even ferrets in our list of eight captivating animal attractions. Whether you're road tripping with kids or simply young at heart, you'll find a mix of drive-thrus, parks, sanctuaries, and museums.

Let's hit the mother road and check out some of the cutest, cuddliest, and craziest critters crossing paths with travelers.

1. Horsing Around with Burros in Oatman, Arizona

Wild burros in Oatman, on historic Route 66 in Arizona

During her exploratory journey along Route 66 to Oatman, Arizona, traveler Kandi Blaze discovered from local discussions that the burros have a unique affinity for poppy flowers, leading to some unusual behavior. You can learn more about this phenomenon here.

At night, the burros returned to town via Route 66, stumbling and falling asleep. Read her full story on this Reddit thread and watch to learn more about the Route 66 burros below:

To see these cute burros, Kandi suggests arriving mid-afternoon and leaving before dark, as the winding mountain roads of Route 66 in this area can be dangerous without reflectors or guardrails.

You can read about other precarious spots to watch out for along Route 66 here: 8 Spooky Spots on Route 66 That Will Give You Goosebumps

2. Having Black Bear-y Fun at Bearizona

After years of just passing by, YouTuber Swifty Travels stopped by Bearizona, the wildlife park off of I-40 near Williams, Arizona, and finally spotted black bears up close.

Bearizona is a 160-acre wildlife drive-thru park, and you can drive over 3 miles of Ponderosa forest, viewing North American animals like otters, bears, and bison.

Bearizona Wild Animal Park. Resident bear taking a nap

Admission costs $20 - $35, including the drive-thru, Fort Bearizona, and surprise animal encounters. The park is open daily from 9 am-5:30 pm, varying hours by season.

3. Chasing Bison in Sayre, Oklahoma

In Sayre, Oklahoma, along Route 66, you'll be captivated by a herd of Bison, North America's largest land mammal. These once-endangered giants now roam freely near the historic highway, offering incredible photo ops, as this TikToker captured.

Remember to keep a safe distance and admire these wild animals from afar. It's a unique and memorable addition to your Route 66 adventure.

4. Catching Oatman's Coyote Gang

Michael Serbesku captured this incredible moment in Oatman, AZ, along Route 66. While driving into the east end of town, a coyote confidently strutted down the middle of the road, gracefully climbed a nearby hill, then seemingly posed for the shot!

With pointed ears, a slender muzzle, and a drooping bushy tail, the coyote often resembles a German shepherd or collie

Coyotes are well-suited to the diverse habitats along Route 66, as they are highly adaptable and can thrive in various environments — from deserts to forests.

5. Eyeing the Black-footed Ferret

Spotting black-footed ferrets is hard — even this mammal watcher spent 6 hours trying to spot at least one. Once thought extinct, these elusive weasels have made a comeback in recent decades thanks to conservation efforts.

Black footed ferret (Mustela nigripes) at route 66

Seligman, Arizona, offers prime ferret viewing as the nocturnal critters emerge to hunt prairie dogs under darkness. The Arizona Department of Game and Fish even conducts spotlighting events for a closer look.

For more beautiful wildlife encounters, you should consider dropping by Yellowstone: The Largest Collection of Mammals in the Lower 48 States (Yellowstone’s Wildlife)

6. Fawning Over Deer at Grand Canyon Deer Farm

The Grand Canyon Deer Farm, just a short drive from Route 66 in Williams, Arizona, is a delightful and family-friendly attraction. This unique wildlife park allows visitors to interact with animals like deer, elk, and reindeer.

Deers grazing on meadow

The park provides a safe and interactive environment where visitors can feed and pet the animals, making it an ideal destination for kids and adults.

Beyond the animal encounters, the Grand Canyon Deer Farm offers picturesque surroundings, making it a memorable stop along Route 66.

7. Slithering on to the American International Rattlesnake Museum

The American International Rattlesnake Museum, a captivating attraction located just a stone's throw away from Route 66 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, is dedicated to rattlesnakes from North and South America.

Close up of rattlesnake

This unique museum showcases live rattlesnakes, informative exhibits on their biology and ecological importance, and a diverse collection of rattlesnake-related art and artifacts.

Their website says admission is $8.95 for adults, with discounted rates for seniors, military, teachers, and students. Children aged 3-12 pay a reduced fee, while admission is free for those under 3. They also offer yearly passes and private tours.

8. Experiencing a Roar-ing Time at Keepers of the Wild

Keepers of the Wild is a renowned wildlife sanctuary located in the picturesque backdrop of Northern Arizona, just a short drive from Route 66.

This accredited non-profit organization is dedicated to rescuing, rehabilitating, and preserving exotic and indigenous animals, providing them with a safe and loving environment.

You can do self-guided trails or join exciting safaris, walk among rescued tigers, bears, and lions at your own pace ($20 adults, $15 seniors, $12 kids), or hop on a guided safari for close-up encounters and fascinating stories about these amazing animals ($30 adults, $25 seniors, $22 kids).

Feeling adventurous? You can also witness feeding time on the Feeding Safari. Check out their rates and tours on their website.

Wildlife Encounters to Remember

As you check sites off your Route 66 bucket list, be present for the memorable wildlife encounters along this iconic highway.

Next time you spot a coyote or a herd of bison, take a moment to appreciate these wild creatures safely in their natural habitat.

Marvel at the bears foraging in Bearizona or chuckle at the burros interacting with tourists in Oatman. These are special access experiences to be cherished.

But remember, too, that we are only guests in the animals’ homes. Respect park rules, keep your distance, and don’t feed or disturb them.

This ensures future generations can enjoy these creatures in the wild — and revel in Mother Nature’s wonders along the Mother Road.

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