Skip to main content

5 Animals You’ll Meet in Big Bend

A large female black bear looking towards the camera

Spot Some of Big Bend’s Animal Inhabitants

Big Bend National Park has a spectacular variation of ecosystems. Quite often referred to as ‘three parks in one’, Big Bend has multiple ecosystems within its boundaries. From staggering mountains to deep canyons, vast desert landscapes to the banks of the mighty Rio Grande, and from hot to cold, wet to dry, high to low, this diverse area is a space where an enormous variety of plants and animals thrive.

Although there is never a guarantee you will spot the most famous Big Bend animals, there is an abundance of other critters that you will come across while spending your time here. So strap up your hiking boots and prepare yourself for an exciting encounter with one of the animals listed below who call this amazing national park home!

1. Black Bear

Bears in Big Bend have had quite the history. The black bear wasn’t always a common sight in the Chisos Mountains because around 1944, there were virtually none left in the park due to hunting, trapping, and loss of habitat. However, around the ’80s, the bears made an astonishing comeback, and nowadays visitors regularly spot these circle-eared cuties roaming the lands. Please keep in mind: the black bears here are wild animals and every precaution must be taken if and when you come across one. Take a look at what to do if you come into contact with a bear.

2. Bobcat

More commonly spotted than the prestigious mountain lion, numerous bobcats reside in Big Bend National Park. They are most often spotted in the bushy areas near the banks of the rivers and are a favorite with visitors. These beautiful cats can reach up to 125 cm (49 in) with a large cat weighing in at around 17 lbs (8kg). They hunt mainly hare and rabbit but won’t pass up an opportunity to catch birds, rodents, and insects.

3. Northern Cardinal

Birdwatching in Big Bend draws avid birdwatchers from across the country. It’s difficult to showcase just one bird as there are around 450 documented species in the park but the northern cardinal is undoubtedly one of the most unique. The male is a beautiful, bright red color with a small, spiky tuft on his head while the female is a light browny color with a red feather streak through her body and a bright red beak. Aside from the northern cardinal, visitors can also spot summer tanagers, great horned owls, ladder-backed woodpeckers, black vultures, green kingfishers, and much, much more!

4. Ringtail

Sometimes referred to as a ‘miner’s cat’, the ringtail is part of the raccoon family and is found in the arid regions of North America. These big-eyed, long-bodied mammals are excellent climbers and can be spotted scaling vertical walls, high up in the trees, or traversing rocky cliffs—so keep your eyes peeled!

5. Green Sunfish

It wouldn’t be right to exclude one of our fishy friends from this list! The Rio Grande is home to a number of species and the green sunfish is native to the waters. Part of the sunfish family, this green delight is often caught by accident by recreational fishermen and is also a popular choice for people’s aquariums at home. They’re most active during the day, so if you’re out on the river keep an eye out and, if you do manage to catch one, they are supposed to be quite tasty…

There are so many mammals, reptiles, birds, insects, amphibians, and fish that call this spectacular national park their home. You are guaranteed to spot some of the natives while visiting, but like with any wild animal, they stick to no person’s schedule and no one can guarantee a sighting. However, you can get in touch with our friendly team here at the Far Flung Outdoor Center and we can point you in the right direction of some of the best animal-spotting locations in the park. Get in contact with us here or just send me an email at

– Greg