Yellowstone in Winter

“The Lynx Day”

Our first day in the park was full of excitement!

We got intel from a hotel staff member that there had been recent spotting of a lynx on the premises. Being the wildlife nerds we are, we loaded up in the SUVs after our 5:55 am breakfast and began the lynx hunt. Though we were unsuccessful in our first exploration, the morning quickly proved itself.

Driving through the park before sunrise seemed a bit uneventful, but after a while, we entered area around Elk Creek and experienced the most amazing sunrise over the Absaroka mountains.

Sunrise over a snowy landscape

Sunrise over Elk creek

In addition to waking us up, the warm light creeping over the peaks allowed us to witness some incredible wildlife as they too began their day.

Before noon, we documented sights of: American dipper, elk, common goldeneye, bull moose, red foxes, mountain goats, a herd of bison crossing the snow (and took over the road), and a very regal coyote who stood peacefully on the hillside and eventually walked down to our cars!


Coyote, not a wolf.

Male moose

Male moose. We saw 2 others also, for a total of three, but the other two males had already dropped their antlers.

We slowly made our way to Lower Baronette for a challenging, yet incredibly rewarding show shoe experience. With snow in depth past our knees, we embarked on our first trek through the snow. Through the heavy breaths and frigid temperatures, we found solace in this special place. Randy shared with us an activity that NC State Parks leads— a silent walk. Since snow shoeing is far from silent, we opted to rather pause in our tracks and listen… to the cold air blow past our faces, the water rushing from a nearby (mostly frozen) stream, and birds rustling in the trees.

We paused and listened to Yellowstone. We heard what she had to say, and though to many it would seem like nothing, there was great wisdom, stories, and soothing words spoken in that peaceful moment.

Snowshoeing with the group

Vin leads the way on our snowshoe adventure

After lunch, we embarked on yet another snowshoe hike to Trout Lake. We were excited to walk right into the path that we had earlier seen a herd of bison and two moose. We were moved to see tracks of bison, weasels, coyote, and wolves. We had entered their domain. At the high point of our trail, over 7,000ft, we paused yet again to reflect in our journals. Amidst the silent snow, once again, Yellowstone spoke directly into the hearts of each and every one of us. We shared our journal entires and embraced the immense gratitude for this experience and those with whom we are sharing it.

The group cross the bridge at Trout lake

Crossing the footbridge at Trout Lake in snowshoes!

“This place was so much more than I was expecting…”, “If I stayed here forever, I wonder who would I become…”, “I have unleashed a wildness in me that I didn’t know was there.” Moved from the words of our fellow participants, we embarked on our descent back to the trailhead just as the sun began to set, hoping to hear the howl of a wolf.

So though we didn’t technically see a lynx today, thank you Yellowstone, for all you did show us. It is only the first day, and you have already left us in awe. We are eager to hear and see the remainder of your secrets, hidden within these white walls.

The group at the entrance to Yellowstone National Park

Welcome to a very snowy Yellowstone! This picture is at the northeast entrance sign.

Blaire, Chip, Davanne, Randy

Coyote Team



  • Joy Shuck

    4 years ago

    Pictures are great, looks like you all are already having a blast! Yellowstone in Winter still remains one of the most amazing and impactful experiences I’ve had in the lands I love. I still share lessons learned, just teaching my field instructors about keystone species earlier this week. You are all in for quite the adventure, enjoy every second of it! Melissa and Megan are the best and you couldn’t have 2 better leaders for your time in Yellowstone! Enjoy snowshoeing, it is a blast, especially “plopping” in the snow. Roll down a hill, skip breakfast and get out early (totally worth it), savor diamond dust, true cold, sounds of wolves howling before the sun breaks over the horizon, 3 dog days…Wow memories are flooding back. Have the best time ever and hope you see that Lynx! Happy Adventuring! Megan, nice Flash 22 🙂

    • Megan Davis

      4 years ago


      Joy!!!!! We love and miss you! I still think about our time together too (my first winter here)- so many great memories! Wearing our blue backpacks in style! Thank you for this wonderful gift!

  • JFK Class

    4 years ago

    Thanks for the update. That sunrise was beautiful! We hope you get to see that lynx before the trip is over. We enjoyed the pictures of wildlife you shared, keep them coming! May we suggest that a vlog would be a great addition to the traditional blog post. Sometimes, a video can say so much more than words. Fpr example, say a snowball fight broke out among the team. . . Not that we are giving you any ideas or anything. . . We miss you Mr. Pollock but we know you are going to learn so much from this experience and have lots of questions for you upon your return!


    4 years ago


    • Blaire Dawkins

      4 years ago

      Yes! We saw 16 wolves from the Wapiti pack here in Yellowstone, and we’ve seen many Coyotes! No bears though 🙂

  • Ezequiel

    4 years ago

    What effect does the large amount of precipitation of snowfall have on the local ecosystems?
    Do local species have complications with finding food during this time?
    (extra credit?)

    • Blaire Dawkins

      4 years ago

      Hey! Great question. We actually learned today about how some organisms burrow in snow and make microbiomes. Small organisms that tunnel in the lowest of layers most close to the ground are categorized as subnivean creatures(mice, shrew, ground squirrels, etc.), then going closer to the surface we have intranivean (middle) and supranivean(above). It’s interesting because larger animals such as owls and foxes, coyotes, etc will prey upon these organisms! BUT because of climate change, precipitation(snow) will actually melt quicker, causing the thermal gradient that is created from the warmer subnivean zone to the cooler supranivean to be altered. Layers can actually freeze, causing the small organisms to become trapped, thus altering the entire food chain! So yes! Some organisms can have an incredibly difficult time finding food and breaking through that icy layer if the snowy months are warmer than normal. Great question! If you have more, please ask! See you soon!

  • Ezequiel

    4 years ago


  • Ezequiel

    4 years ago

    What effect does the large amount of precipitation of snowfall have on the local ecosystem?
    Does it create complications for the local species to find food?
    (extra credit)

  • Justine

    4 years ago

    Class: We miss you!
    E: We hope you’re having fun!
    A: Come back soon!
    G: I hope you’re having a nice time!
    T: I hope you’re having a nice time with the other teachers!
    B: I love you!
    M: The nature things that you found are very cool!
    N: Have you seen any kinds of weasels?

    These were just some comments from Ms. Valgus’s class today! Thank you for all the pictures!

    • Ms Valgus

      4 years ago

      Hello, First Graders! I’m am having an incredible time alongside all of the teachers in the group! We are learning so much every day about this beautiful place and I’m so excited to share these experiences with you when I return to the classroom. We are still keeping a close eye out for the weasel. When we stopped in Canyon Village, they had a wonderful exhibit about some of the animal species that live in Yellowstone. I did get some pictures of two ermine pelts that I will show you when I get back.

  • Kate

    4 years ago

    Extra Credit Question: What do you think is the largest impact that humans have on an environment such as Yellowstone?

    • Blaire Dawkins

      4 years ago

      Wow, Kate great question! While I’m not sure if it would be considered the “greatest impact”, but knowledge of this incredible ecosystem is so important right now! We spent the day learning how this great place was formed via plate tectonic activity and weathering (which we know humans can affect), but we’ve also really focused on how sacred and important this park is all week long. Being the first national park, I personally think that knowing about these creatures, their behaviors, and significance to our entire Biosphere is incredibly impactful!

      Side note: we also witness a group of snow mobilers trailing behind a lonely Bison today. We witnessed the stress that this placed on the Bison, and the humans seemed to not even realize what they were doing. There is great power in knowledge, and we could really sustain Yellowstone even better if we harnessed as much information as possible!

      See you soon 🙂

  • Dakota W

    4 years ago

    It looks like a great time! All the wildlife you’re seeing is amazing!

  • Emily Hermann

    4 years ago

    How does Yellowstone contribute to the preservation of species?

    • Gretchen Miller

      4 years ago

      Hi Emily! There are a lot of great examples here, but one that we have experienced first hand is the reintroduction of wolves to the park. By the early 1900s all of the wolves had been exterminated, but in 1995 an important project brought some from Canada and released them in the park. The wolves are now thriving, and we have had the opportunity to see wolves from 2 packs this week.

  • Julian Vega

    4 years ago

    Did you see any of the wildlife travel in pacts. ( Extra credit question)

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