One thing that makes the winter season so special is the Yellowstone wildlife that can be easily spotted against the snowy landscapes. While many come to Yellowstone in winter to take advantage of the outdoor activities such as cross-country skiing or snowmobiling, we suggest setting aside time to observe the wildlife. There are fewer crowds during the colder season, which will allow you the opportunity to take your time while capturing photographs and watching the Yellowstone National Park animals. While bears hibernate and some birds migrate, you’ll still find a vast number of animals roaming the grounds. Keep reading to learn about the most popular winter Yellowstone wildlife animals.  


The rutting season for moose peaks in fall, which is usually the only time you’ll spot these up to 1,000 pound Yellowstone National Park animals in larger groups. Moose tend to wander alone or in small groups during winter and roam near lake shores, rivers and streams, forested areas, as well as in the marshy meadows. Moose shed their antlers during the end of the year to retain energy for Yellowstone in winter and grow new ones each April.  


One of the most photographed mammals you’ll find in Yellowstone in winter is the elk, and most migrate to the northern range near Gardiner, Montana, during the colder season. A healthy male’s antlers can reach an average of 55-60 inches in length and weigh in at around 30 pounds. This is perhaps the main reason they are the most photographed Yellowstone National Park animals out of all of the Yellowstone wildlife. Most bulls shed their antlers nearing the end of march and grow new ones shortly after.  


Year-round you’ll find a vast number of bison roaming around the Hayden and Lamar valleys, but during the winter, they tend to migrate to hydrothermal spots around the Madison River. A male (bull) can weigh a massive 2,000 pounds and can run-up to an incredible 30 mph! The Yellowstone National Park animals tend to travel in groups sizes of around 20 in winter, 200 in summer, and a max number of 1,000 during the breeding season, which happens mid-July.

Wolf, Coyote, Fox, Oh my!

Yellowstone National Park animals that often get mistaken for one another are wolves and coyotes. The main distinction between the two is their size, as coyotes are 1/3rd the size of an average wolf. Coyotes in Yellowstone tend to have a brown or rusty hue while wolves appear in a mix of white, grey, or black colors. Wolves will run coyotes away from their territory as they both compete for the same prey. While the coyote is smaller than the wolf, they are larger than the fox, which is the smallest of the dog family in the park.

East and West Yellowstone Accommodations

During winter, you’ll notice that the beautiful species linger around lower elevations and closer to the roads. You’ll find many of the Yellowstone National Park animals listed above, but you’ll also spot pronghorns, birds, bobcats, cougars, river otters, and many other critters during winter. No matter where you stay while Lodging at Yellowstone, we remind you to use precaution when observing the Yellowstone wildlife. Keeping the recommended distance and reading over the safety guidelines on how to handle wildlife encounters will ensure you have the best wildlife viewing experience.

Throughout winter, enjoy a stay in East Yellowstone at The Cody Hotel or in West Yellowstone at the Kelly Inn. Head to our Find Lodging page to select the area that’s perfect your trip, along with our hotel amenities! Please give us a call to learn more at 1-800-259-4672.