Although the cold months are sometimes described as barren or desolate, nature never truly closes shop. There’s ample opportunity for winter wildlife viewing if you know where to look.
Elk descend from the higher elevations during winter to seek food, making the snowy season ideal for observation. The National Eld Refuge aims to host 5,000 four-hoofed visitors every season, but their numbers frequently top 7,000.
Catch a sleigh tour to get a fascinating up-close perspective on these powerful animals. Elk shed their antlers during the winter, so keep your eyes peeled for the discarded racks scattered around the preserve. But remember to take only photos and memories.
Winter is prime wolf season in Yellowstone. These beautiful predators are very much alert and active during the chilly months. You may see them hunt, eat, play and interact with one another. One of the most maligned and misunderstood creatures in the West, wolves were hunted nearly to the point of extinction.
Controversy remains about the 1995 relocation that returned wolves to Yellowstone, even among biologists trying to find the most appropriate balance of nature and human intervention. Contrary to popular depiction, wolves are shy and have sophisticated pack social structures. There is no better way to achieve interspecies understanding than to see them with your own binoculars.
Between mid-December and April, 20,000 gray whales completing their annual migration from Alaska to Baja swim through the waters of San Diego and the region is renowned for its whale watching. Scenic points and boat tours can provide excellent views. These gargantuan ocean mammals grow to more than 14 feet in length and are about as wide as a basketball court, so if you observe keenly and patiently, they’re hard to miss!
While the gray whales are moving down to Mexico for the winter, elephant seals are settling in to start their families on the Northern Coast of California. It’s a rare opportunity to glimpse them on shore, as these creatures spend between eight and ten months a year at sea. Educational tours of seal sites are available.
Humans aren’t the only ones who like to winter in Florida. This 2,000-mile stretch of ornithological paradise is home to an enormous range of habitats and bird types. From swamp-loving flocks in the Everglades, to coastal waterfowl and shore birds on the lagoons, to woods dwellers, the diversity of the bird life on display makes this ambitious trail an important stop for any true lover of feathered creatures.
Each region hosts its own unique wildlife during the winter. Whether around your own home or in a local preserve or park, you’ll find the unique drama of cold weather wildlife survival everywhere you look if you keep your eyes open.