Winter Wildlife

I went cross country skiing last weekend, just east of Yellowstone National Park.  It was a slow day for wildlife, but I did see some moose tracks.     Generally we see a variety of wildlife – water ouzels or dippers, moose, bighorn sheep, etc.  There had been a beaver living along the river, but I didn’t see any sign of it this trip.  We’ve also seen otters playing in the water.  One year there was half an elk carcass just off the track – brought down by wolves!      


Activity:  What do animals do under the snow?  Not all animals hibernate or migrate out of snowy conditions.  Rodents especially continue living on top and under the snow pack.  If there’s snow where you live, see if you can locate a spot where mice have burrowed through the snow.  Mice live under the snow, down into the soil where the temperatures stay a little warmer, but they climb to the top in order to forage for seeds.  Often the snow isn’t as deep around the base of a tree so that would be a good place to start.  Read the signs to see if you can determine the rodents’ general pattern of movement – where they come through the snow, where they head for food, etc.  You could even put out some seeds and see how that affects their travels.  This spring, after the snow melts you might find what look like above ground tunnels.  These are the eskers left by pocket gophers and moles as they tunnel around just below ground level, leaving behind mounds of dirt.

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