Yellowstone in Winter

“All creatures great and small”

We woke up to a beautiful blanket of white covering the ground. With snow falling, we loaded up in anticipation for all the animals we hoped to see throughout the day. Within minutes of leaving the hotel, the adventure for the day started!

Giddy with excitement, we eagerly spotted a large group of animal enthusiasts and photographers at Tower Junction. We knew we were in for an amazing treat! On the rolling ridge, bison grazed on grasses. Upon closer inspection of the herd, we captured our first views of the infamous Yellowstone wolves. Our childlike enthusiasm bubbled as we quickly set up our scopes, pulled out our binoculars and prepped our cameras for the wolves. We counted sixteen wolves ranging in color from black, light grey, to the white alpha female. The pack was actively moving across the ridge to the delight of all the watchers lined up. Three of the wolves were in a constant game of chase and tackle. You could feel the joy and companionship of the pack. As the alpha moved the pack would run and reposition. As they reached the top of the ridge it was as if they knew they were being photographed because the pack lined up across the top and begin walking. These magnificent views and interactions continued on the other side of the ridge so we quickly moved. From our new position we had an even closer view and we laughed and ohh and awed as they ran and frolicked down the hill. It was an amazing and awe inspiring experience.

Wolf pack

Wapiti Lake wolf pack

Second only to the wolves themselves we met Rick McIntyre, retired Yellowstone Wolf Project employee, wolf watcher, and writer, and Doug Smith, Senior Wildlife Biologist and Wolf Project Manager for Yellowstone National Park. We had the opportunity to hear them tell stories about the wolves and answer our questions. We totally “fan girled” and asked for autographs and selfies.

Group pic

The group selfie with Rick McItyre

In addition to the Wapiti Lake Pack we saw two coyotes, two pairs of bald eagles, ravens, magpies, a moose, lots of bison, and five Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep. To not be out done by the wolves two of the bighorn sheep decided to head-butt each other right in front of us. And this folks was all before 11:30am.

Bighorn sheep ramming each other

It’s not the mating season, which is usually November, but these two bighorn sheep exhibited their territoriality by rearing up and butting heads with a loud crash.

After a delicious lunch at Buns and Beds we headed to meet Cindy and Dan Hartman, leading wildlife photographers and naturalists, at their home on the edge of the park. He started our education by taking us on a snowshoe hike through his backyard. He enthralled us with stories of owls, voles, and moose. Then from the cold he took us into his home to get down to the heart of the matter. All animals deserve our respect and protection. He showed us his astounding photography of all the animals large and small but drew our attention to the smaller species that are the first impacted by human interactions like the pika that we must hold in the same esteem as the wolves.

The group on a snowy hillside

Snowshoeing with Dan Hartman

Our final moment in the Lamar Valley was to soak in a sunset in silence.


Sunset in Lamar Valley

I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery- air, mountains, trees, people. I thought, ‘This is what it is to be happy.’ ~Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar, 1963



  • Nancy Chesser

    4 years ago

    Awesome!!! How could you stand to move on from the bighorn sheep showdown? But the trip to the backyard sounds like great learning and exploration, as well. Some day I want to come! Continue having amazing adventures!

  • Mary Kay Peele

    4 years ago

    What an awesome opportunity for this group of educators!

  • Tyler Buonocore

    4 years ago

    What type of animals did you see there? How did evolution affect animals that live there to survive in that environment?

  • Tyler Buonocore

    4 years ago

    How did evolution affect the animals living there and how they survived in the environment?

  • Abigail

    4 years ago

    Wow that looks so fun. All of the animals look just like in all of the movies

    • Blaire Dawkins

      4 years ago

      Abigail, you would love it here! I agree, it’s surreal to see these animals in the wild!

      See you soon!

      Ps— I’m going to need some more Girl Scout cookies when I get back!

  • Ursula

    4 years ago

    Abigail, the animals are magnificent! We are definitely seeing many of the species that we watched together on Yellowstone Live. Melissa and Megan, our amazing guides, brought scopes and we can watch them even though they may be far away. Hearing the howling wolf in the distance, listening to the joyous call of the American dipper, and observing bighorn rams collide in Yellowstone is awe-inspiring!

  • Jada

    4 years ago

    How did the weather change affect? Like did you get sick due to the snow?

  • Kira Heppe

    4 years ago

    Were the animals that you saw originally from there, or did they have to adapt?

  • Zak Romanowski

    4 years ago

    Hi Ms. Dawkins, while researching Yellowstone online, I noticed that it has a very diverse climate. Was there anything you noticed in the ecosystems during the cold that would not be possible in the summer/hot months of the year? If so, how do the organisms adapt to these changes?

  • Karly Woodall

    4 years ago

    How many different animal species did you see? How do the weather conditions affect the environment and how do the animals survive the harsh winter conditions?

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