Winter Wildlife in Yellowstone: Just because we’re closed doesn’t mean Yellowstone animals slow down!
Visitors to our Montana Dude Ranch see Yellowstone come to life in the summer with horseback riding, fishing, birdwatching, and more. But that doesn’t mean winter is any less active and beautiful! Visitors to Yellowstone in the winter months will have a whole new set of wildlife activity enjoy—IF they know what to look for. Here are some of the changes our local animal inhabitants go through during our Montana Dude Ranch’s chilly off season:
When the temperature starts to drop, the local Yellowstone wildlife starts to act a little differently. Squirrels begin storing food to get through the winter months, other small mammals begin living beneath the snow in order to find insulation and protection from predators, and bison, elk, and geese seek out hydro-thermal areas to find warmth.
Many of the changes Yellowstone wildlife experience near our Montana Dude Ranch are ones you can see. For example, any animals will start to molt their fur so that incoming underfur—which is thicker and designed to trap air—can grow in. Animals like Snowshoe hares, white-tailed jackrabbits, and long-tailed weasels will actually turn white for the winter, making it easier to blend in with their winter surroundings.
And then there are the changes that we can’t see. For example, chickadees’ body temperature drops from 108°F to 88°F at night, leading to a 23% decrease in the amount of fat burned each night and therefore conserving heat. While Chorus frogs tolerate the cold weather by becoming severely diabetic: by converting glycogen to glucose, blood sugar rises 200-fold and eventually, when their internal ice content reaches 60–65%, the frog’s heart and breathing stop. Not to worry—within one hour of thawing the frog’s heart gets back beating!
And those are just some of the exciting changes that occur during winter near our Montana Dude Ranch and Yellowstone National Park. While it’s definitely worth a winter trip to the area, be sure to visit us next season when things thaw out and the summer fun begins!