Where’s the Wildlife – February

Heavy wind blowing snow over Jackson Hole

On most years, February is the snowiest month, solidifying winter’s grip by blanketing the landscape with poundings of snow. If wildlife wasn’t struggling by this point, they will be now. Though temperatures have warmed up slightly from January, the end of winter still feels like it’s way out of reach.

Bald Eagles

Bald eagles are frequently seen flying along the Snake River and its tributary, the Gros Ventre River. With few opportunities for carcasses and with snow burying ground rodents to a larger extent, bald eagles will stick to water where their chances of successfully catching prey are higher. Farther north in the park, Oxbow Bend and Jackson Lake can also be fortunate sights. Golden eagles are always a rare sighting, but they can be spotted potentially near a carcass leftover from wolf activity.

Beavers and Otters

Most beaver dams at this point are still frozen over and well submerged in snow, so until the ice thaws, don’t expect to see much in terms of beaver activity. With slightly warming temperatures though, small breaks in the ice allow for otter activity, though sightings are still quite rare. Keep an eye out along slower moving streams such as the Flat Creek Overlook just outside of Jackson, as well as open water in Oxbow Bend.

Black and Grizzly Bears

Most black and grizzly bears are tucked away enjoying their hibernation. It wouldn’t be impossible to see an early grizzly bear in the northern reaches of Grand Teton National Park late in February, but it’s also pretty unlikely.

Bighorn Sheep

The frequent snow will continue to push the bighorn sheep down to lower elevations. They’ll stick to the base of Miller Butte in the National Elk Refuge with a good deal of regularity, so finding them shouldn’t be too hard of an outing from Jackson. If it’s a warmer season, look for them higher up on the butte.

Bison

Most bison will still be tucked away in the northern reaches of the National Elk Refuge, visible only with a high-powered scope. On warmer seasons, a few stragglers can occasionally be found wandering around Antelope Flats, though on a typical season, this is pretty unlikely by the time February rolls around.

Coyotes and Foxes

Thanks to the increase in snow pack, coyotes and foxes are easier to find in the snow, popping off the white sheet with little room to hide. Keep on an eye on Antelope Flats for both coyotes and foxes as they hunt for rodents through the snow.

As an extra bonus, February is when a lot of wild canines in North America are mating, so coyote activity should be extra high during this time since they’re frequently running around trying to find mates.

Elk

Elk will be clustering together a little tighter during the month of February as the National Elk Refuge resorts to feeding the herds as winter’s grip tightens. As a result, nearby elk sightings tend to be a bit on the rare side, unless you take a sleigh ride on the refuge to get up close with them.

Moose

Moose will be frequently seen closer to the water as much of the ground vegetation they were feeding on throughout Antelope Flats is getting buried. Keep an eye out along the Gros Ventre River as they head back to their primary territory to feed on cottonwood and willow sprouts along the water’s edge. By this time, most of the bulls will have lost their antlers as well.

Mule Deer

Mule deer will continue to forage where grasses are easily accessible, namely around wind-swept hills. The area around Kelly is where many tend to linger throughout the late winter, while many others can be spotted on the hills along Highway 89 opposite the National Elk Refuge.

Pronghorn

Pronghorn are very hard to find in February. Any stragglers that didn’t migrate out will have probably been taken down by wolves, so finding pronghorn in late winter is typically very challenging.

Wolves

As mentioned earlier, February is canine mating season, which includes wolves. This keeps them extra active as much of their prey is also getting weaker throughout the winter. Wolf activity begins ramping up in February, with many often seen through a scope on the National Elk Refuge, or also moving around Antelope Flats.

Hire a Personal Guide and Instructor

Want to maximize your chances of seeing these animals? Book a Master Class with me and I’ll take you around Grand Teton National Park and show you all the secrets I know to help you come away with some fantastic photography of the area, as well as personally teaching you how and why the animals behave the way they do, so that you can learn how to take full advantage of your time in the here!

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