Seasons of Wildlife

Moose in the winter

Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge experiences the four seasons like much of the rest of the Rocky Mountains. Each season, which doesn't necessarily correspond with the calendar dates, brings a different challenge for the wildlife here. From harsh snowy winters, to rainy springs, to dry summers, and a fall that can't decide between summer and winter. It's certainly never boring around the year here for the wildlife.

  • Spring

    Pronghorn newborn calf

    At the altitude of the refuge, spring starts late. It's almost summer before the snow starts to melt here. Spring starts our seasons because it is the start of new life on the refuge. The winter has covered the refuge with snow and starting in April and May it begins to melt. By May, many of the migratory birds have arrived. Many of these birds make nests, mate and start to give birth to their chicks. Gestation time in these birds is short. Trumpeter swan cygnets hatch. The elk, deer, pronghorn and moose mated last fall and now give birth to calves between May and June. Willows and aspen grow their bright green leaves by mid-May to early June. Early wildflowers begin to bloom.

  • Summer

    Western Tanager in Summer

    Although summer officially starts June 15th, in the refuge it still feels like spring. By the middle of July things start to heat up and summer is here. Birds are busy attending to their chicks, trying to find enough food for them and teaching them to fly from the nest. Wildflowers bloom about mid-June and continue through mid-to-late July. By the end of June, elk and moose start to disappear into the mountains to feed. In early summer, fish are still enjoying relatively cool waters.

  • Fall

    Road in Fall 150

    Fall brings a change of cooler climate, starting about the first of October. Many of the migratory birds have left or are leaving. Many of the trumpeter swans stay year round, moving to the ponds that have warm springs to keep them ice-free. The aspens and willows and a few maples turn beautiful golden and red colors.  Hunters start to arrive and the refuge is no longer safe for many species that stay.

  • Winter

    Snowshoe Hare 150

    Winter here is harsh for the animals. Temperatures can go as low as -50 degrees F and snow can be packed high as 3 or 4 feet at times during the winter. Most of the birds go south or to lower elevations, as do the pronghorn, elk and other big game animals. The bears are hibernating and some of the trumpeter swans stay the winter, finding the open water near warmer springs in the refuge. Food is scarce and daylight hours are limited. The refuge staff is at a minimum and often getting to the headquarters area is impossible without snowmobile or snowcat equipment.