For a while, one had to wonder if spring would ever arrive in certain parts of Wyoming. Winter kept a firm grip on much of the state this year.

But whether it is early or late, spring is a glorious time — a rejuvenation if you will. Life begins for some of Wyoming’s wildlife in the spring. For other species, the season marks a time to move and feed. Hillsides are green, wildflowers begin to show. It’s an outstanding time, albeit short.

What better way to celebrate this time at Wyoming Wildlife than to show pictures of the state’s wildlife this time of year? Like many of Wyoming’s residents, employees of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department are renewed by the warmer weather and sunny days. Game and Fish manages more than 800 species of wildlife in the state, and its employees shared some of their favorite spring photos. The hardest part for the magazine staff in putting this piece together was choosing the photos. The 14 photos selected came from more than 200 submitted by staffers. All were good and narrowing it down was difficult — but also fun. A special thank you to all the Game and Fish employees who participated in this endeavor. 


Stacey Olson, office administrator, Cody Regional Office

In early spring in Wyoming the snow melts away, green grass emerges and wildflowers spread across the landscape. As sunlight stretches across the hillsides, nature’s little treasures are revealed. On one of my adventures, a glint of white in the meadow below me caught my eye. I changed my direction of travel and wound my way through the sage, avoiding the lingering snow patches. I hoped it was an elk antler and not another of the many fallen logs and weathered tree branches I discovered over the years. It was. That evening, as I headed down the valley, I could see my breath rise as clouds rolled in. I stuffed my hands into my pockets and moved a little faster sending a silent thank you to spring for fighting a little harder on that day.


Amy Anderson, habitat biologist, Lander

Sometimes, heading to the field for the day, you happen upon interesting wildlife. This mule deer buck was feeding roadside near Lander in a field of alfalfa. He was entertaining and thoroughly enjoying his alfalfa breakfast. A doe with twin fawns was feeding nearby. A big mouthful of alfalfa makes for a tasty treat after a long winter of eating sagebrush twigs. When roadside wildlife is spotted, it’s enticing to veer off the road to get photographs and watch, but this can be dangerous for you, other travelers and wildlife. You have to be careful not to block roads and not to spook wildlife where they may move into traffic and risk wildlife-vehicle collisions. But stopping a distance away and watching through binoculars, spotting scopes or telephoto lenses can result in seeing the natural behavior of the animals without disturbing them. 


Stacey Olson, office administrator, Cody Regional Office

One Sunday morning I found some time to go outside to the chaise lounge on our patio. I curled up under an old, beloved blanket with a hot cup of coffee in hand and my camera beside me. Birds of every size and shape whipped by my head arguing over who gets what from the feeders. As I sat there absorbed in a relaxing morning, I felt a tugging regret. Why can’t I find the time to do this more often? Looking through the fence into the pasture, I watched as a doe emerged with a fawn at her side. I watched for a while before I rose slowly and picked up my camera. With the noise of the shutter click the doe gave a silent command and the fawn laid down all but disappearing in the deep grass. It's not every day you get to observe sights like this from your back door. Unless, of course, you live where I do.


Mark Nelson, project coordinator, Cheyenne

I had never seen a harlequin duck in Wyoming, so I was excited to see a pair searching for insects in a high-mountain stream. I attended a meeting at the Game and Fish Whiskey Mountain Conservation Camp near Dubois. After a long day sitting on an uncomfortable, metal chair I was happy the work day was over. It was a perfect evening to take my camera for a walk along Torrey Creek. The stream took some lazy twists and turns, and at times quickened its pace as the flow narrowed between boulders or the slope increased. It was in the swifter currents I caught a glimpse of orange and white. I quickly realized the colors I saw were the striking markings of a harlequin duck. I watched as he and his drab-colored mate foraged for freshwater insects in the fast water. I sat low to the stream bank and focused my large camera lens on the male as he fed upstream toward me. It seemed most of the time his colorful head was completely submerged as he traveled up the current. I was impressed at the ease in which he navigated the rapids. I believe he was as much at home in the water as he was in the air. 


Mark Nelson, project coordinator, Cheyenne

On the outskirts of Cheyenne the Wyoming Hereford Ranch lies along Crow Creek. The ranch has the distinction of being the oldest continuous registered livestock operation in the United States, but is also renowned for its birding opportunities. The cottonwood-shaded creek, flowing water and agriculture fields are a mecca for north-bound birds. As it was the height of the spring bird migration, I knew my best opportunity for bird photography would be found on the ranch. It seemed every cottonwood branch held a yellow-rumped warbler. I noticed this particular warbler had a favorite perch he used to swoop down on flying insects. I wanted to catch the action in flight but he was fast so I cranked up the shutter speed to 1/4000 of a second to capture all the details. After 100 or so photos, I managed to get a keeper. 



Mark Smith, assistant fisheries management coordinator, Cheyenne

Streams that tumble from the high peaks onto the arid flanks of the western Bighorn Mountains have long attracted people. Ancestral sites of the Apsáalooke (Crow) and Eastern Shoshone dot the land. On a warm, spring day I was drawn to these dry hills and wet canyons in pursuit of native Yellowstone cutthroat trout. The abandoned trail into the canyon, carved by cattlemen and their stock, has mostly been reclaimed by trees and shrubs. Descending into the canyon is a hike that feels like surrendering to gravity while praying there is another way out. Atop a streamside boulder, I celebrated my return with lunch. Like any good angler, as I ate, I observed. In the pool at my feet, the current wrapped beneath the bank in a slow arc. At first I only noticed the snout of the fish, peeking out into muted sunlight. Trout in calm water move almost effortlessly. The fish edged out from underneath the bank, slowly grazing on items invisible to me. I also moved slowly as I gathered my camera from my pack and focused on the first cutthroat of spring, welcoming me back. 



Justin Binfet, wildlife management coordinator, Casper

This picture of a long-tailed weasel in its winter coat was taken in the Black Hills near Sand Creek. When I first spotted it, the animal was popping up from a little tunnel it excavated under a large boulder. The surroundings were bright-green with riparian grasses and forbs, so it stood out with its winter coat. After watching it for a while, the weasel ran up a hill to a large sandstone cliff band where it quickly climbed from crevice to crevice in search of prey. This little guy scaled vertical cliffs easily, at times getting about 20 feet up the rock face using tiny ledges. It moved so effortlessly and quickly across the rock face, it was hard to keep up with it even when hiking along the base. It was likely looking for small mammals like a bushy-tailed woodrat or a least chipmunk. Long-tailed weasels prey on a variety of small mammals, birds and insects, but this was too early in the spring to have cavity nesting birds along this cliff face. 


Phil Damm, wildlife biologist, Baggs

This shot was taken at a high-elevation Columbian sharp-tailed grouse lek near Battle Mountain in south-central Wyoming, a portion of the breeding grounds for the only population of Columbians in the state. Like Wyoming’s sage grouse, these leks are the central stomping grounds for Columbian sharp-tailed grouse in the spring with the necessary forage, nesting, brood rearing, roosting and escape cover in close proximity. For the males, the leks are quite literally their stomping grounds. The furious footwork demonstrated in this shot occurred as one part of their mating ritual. The dainty, yet somehow thunderous stomping results in paths devoid of vegetation that weave through the shrubs, and produces little dust clouds when the ground is dry and little muddy messes when wet. The male in this photo had at least one dance partner and dissenter, another male mirroring his dance, to attempt to establish dominance for the rights to breed attending females. 


Becca Meigel, fish culturist, Story Fish Hatchery

Spring is a productive season for spawning populations of trout in Wyoming. If you’re walking along a river this time of year, you might see some bright-orange eggs below the surface of the water. Female trout typically release their eggs on rocky or gravely surfaces where they can be fertilized by a male. Once fertilized, the eggs roll around on the substrate which helps to keep them clean and free of fungus. After a few weeks the eggs start to develop eyes. These eyes look like little, black dots on the egg and are a good sign that the egg is healthy and nearing its hatch. While walking along 40 Rod Creek in Daniel, I spotted a big mat of eggs on the rocky banks and, given the time of year and location, I came to the conclusion they were more than likely Colorado River cutthroat eggs. Spawning populations of Colorado River cutthroat have become few and far between in recent decades so I was happy to get in the water to document them. Thankfully, cell phones are waterproof these days. 


Justin Binfet, wildlife management. coordinator, Casper

This picture was taken during spring green-up while on a hike up the Lamar River in Yellowstone National Park. This yearling buck was lucky enough to survive the winter and had nearly completed his horn growth by the time this picture was taken in late May. This particular hillside was littered with elk sheds, northern pocket gopher tunnels and grizzly bear excavations — presumably hunting ground squirrels or digging up roots. This buck was by itself as it began his journey of dispersal away from the herd he wintered with. As this picture was taken, the mother likely wandered off in isolation to give birth to her next set of fawns, leaving this young buck to fend for himself for the first time in his life. He likely was beginning his search for other males to spend the summer with. Pronghorn bucks often form bachelor male groups during the summer months until the fall rut, although some remain solitary. 


Screenshot-2023-05-22-at-12-03-49-PM.pngGrant Frost, senior wildlife biologist, Cheyenne

Each spring in March, a large number of snow geese gather at the two wildlife habitat management areas near Yoder — Springer and Table Mountain. Esti- mates range from 15,000-20,000 at the peak, although those numbers are hard to judge from ground level. This particular picture was taken at Springer. The geese were located in the center of the reservoir. Several bald eagles were in the area and when they flew near the geese they took off, circled for a few minutes and settled back on the surface until the next disturbance. As I stayed there the moon rose in the east, which presented this nice opportunity each time the geese flew. Sometimes the geese were so thick the moon was obscured. Other times the path they flew wouldn't bring them near the moon. There are several dark geese included in the shot. These are a dark- color morph of snow geese, the source of the so-called blue goose. 


Screenshot-2023-05-22-at-12-06-32-PM.pngJustin Binfet, wildlife management coordinator, Casper
This family of swift foxes was repeatedly observed during the spring near a rural subdivision east of Casper. There is a large prairie dog colony adjacent to this subdivision, which made the area an ideal place for a family of Wyoming's smallest canines. Swift foxes are most commonly associated with prairie dog colonies, which are an important part of their diet. They can be a challenge to photograph as they are primarily nocturnal. However, if you’re patient you can find them out during the day, especially in the spring during the first or last few hours of daylight. These kits played all morning and either jumped on each other or on mom whenever they felt the need, so they were pretty easy to photograph. Their presence had a few area homeowners on edge as some of them raise chickens. But when it was explained that swift foxes focus more on small mammals, small birds/nests, reptiles and insects, their concerns were relieved. In my 20-plus-year career with Game and Fish, I’ve never dealt with a case of swift foxes preying on domestic poultry. In addition, they are one of the cutest and coolest of all of Wyoming’s wildlife species. 


Screenshot-2023-05-22-at-12-09-27-PM.pngNick Scribner, fish passage coordinator, Lander

Red Canyon near Lander is a spectacular sight in spring. The composition of red rock, deep-green grass sprinkled with yellow, purple, orange and blue wildflowers creates a photographer's dream. It was a sunny, spring morning in late May 2009 and I was inspecting work completed the previous fall on Red Canyon Creek within the Game and Fish’s wildlife habitat management area. As I walked along the creek to assess our earlier work, I was surrounded by migrating birds flitting between aromatic chokecherries flush with white flowers. I was suddenly drawn to the plop of something hitting the water. Creeping closer to the creek I spotted a leopard frog near the water's edge. I had my camera handy and snapped a couple photos as it squirmed and stirred the red dirt creating a cloudy mess in the slack water. Then, it jumped to the middle of the crystal-clear creek and held tight, which allowed me to get another shot. The subtle ripples of moving water and red streambed provided a striking background to the frog holding steady. This remains one of my favorite photos I’ve ever taken of Wyoming’s wildlife. 

Photographer Info
Game and Fish Staff

Want the latest updates?

Sign up to get the latest news and events sent directly to your inbox.