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Wildlife Strategies to Survive Winter

Winter is a tough time for Wyoming wildlife to survive. They are exposed to the harsh wind, freezing temperatures, deep snow, and short periods of daylight, which presents plenty of challenges!

Winters in Wyoming can be extreme! This makes it harder for wildlife to access food, water, and shelter- all necessary things to live. Wildlife have a couple different strategies in order to survive these harsh winters. They can either persist, hibernate, or migrate.


This is what we call it when animals travel a very far distance, typically on a seasonal basis. Mule deer, elk, and pronghorn often mi-grate from higher elevation areas that provide lush green grass to eat in the summers to lower elevation areas that are warmer and less snowy in the win-ter. Mule deer living in Teton county during the summer migrate 150 miles to the Red Desert near Rock Springs each winter, where they are able to find more food and slightly warmer temperatures at lower elevation. Birds migrate often as well! Harlequin ducks spend their winters on the coast of the pacific ocean along Canada and Alaska, but migrate inland during the summer-time. North-Western Wyoming is the furthest east that these beautiful ducks are found.


This is what animals do when they get creative and tough it out year-round. Beavers spend all summer busily building lodges and collecting tree branches to store in their dams and ponds in preparation for winter. That way, when the weather gets cold and snow gets deep, they have a food supply and a nice home ready and waiting. Some other animals that persist through the winter include owls, mountain lions, coyotes, and porcupines.


This is a strategy that bears are known well for. In order to avoid the harsh conditions of winter, They find a cave, hollowed out tree, or other nice sheltered nook and hunker down for the winter season. They don’t “sleep” like we do at night- it’s much deeper than that. Their heartbeat and breathing slows down, and their body uses much less energy. This is good, because they don’t eat for up to 6 months! Then, once the weath-er starts to warm up again in spring, they emerge and of course begin look-ing for some food. Other animals that use this strategy include garter snakes, bees, bats, and ground squirrels.

What might be a benefit & a chal-lenge of each strategy? If you were an animal which would you do & why?
Winter survival strategy matching game

- WGFD -

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