Skip Navigation

Seasons of Wildlife


  • Winter


    In the winter, thousands of elk on the National Elk Refuge feed on native vegetation and, when necessary, on alfalfa pellets provided by the Refuge staff. Every year on the refuge, some of the weak, the ill and the old elk die, becoming food for coyotes, wolves, eagles, ravens, and magpies. Bighorn sheep can frequently be seen on Miller Butte.

  • Spring


    Soon after bull elk shed their antlers in March and April, their new velveted antler growth begins. During April and May, elk begin drifting from the Refuge, following the receding snowline toward their summer ranges in the high country. Calves are born in protected areas along the migration route in late May and June. Birds flock to the refuge during their spring migration. 

  • Summer


    In the summer, marsh edges attract songbirds, while open ponds and meadows support ducks, geese, trumpeter swans, and great blue herons. The Refuge's wintering elk have moved to mountain meadows and forests, which offer abundant food and escape from the warmer temperatures. Last year’s coats are replaced by sleek, reddish hair. Bulls’ antlers reach their full growth in August.

  • Fall


    September and October is the breeding season for elk. Bulls' “bugling” calls fill the air at dawn and dusk. Bulls clash antlers with challengers while gathering and guarding harems of cows. From October through December, deepening snows push the elk down from their higher ranges to seek food at lower elevations. Migrating birds pass through on their way to wintering areas farther south.

Last Updated: Oct 02, 2014
Return to main navigation