February in Yellowstone

Seasonal Phenology Notes from the Greater Yellowstone Area

On this page you’ll find February phenology notes for Yellowstone and surrounding areas (mainly Cody, WY). If you’re wondering what it’s like in Yellowstone in February – browse through to get an idea.

February brings with it the start of the spring observations. While it might feel like spring is a long ways off, it’s not. We often get a February thaw that’s begins to release winter’s grip. February is a time of romance. Owls start courting, Ravens also begin their courtship with lovely dances performed on the wind. Canids (foxes, coyotes, wolves) will be breeding as well.

The first Mountain Bluebirds might show up near the end of the month or at the beginning of March. Watch the weather patterns as they’ll come in with the winds that help them along their migratory route. Mule deer bucks will start shedding antlers. The first bears may be seen this month depending on how hard the winter has been.

February 1

  • 1937: Yellowstone | Soda Butte Creek – Ranger Sheldon Dart reports the following ducks on Soda Butte Creek during January: mallards (Anas platyrhynchos platyrhynchos); American golden-eye (Glaucionetta clangula americana); Barrow’s golden-eye (Glaucionetta islandica); Lesser scaup (Jyroca affinis); ring-necked (Nyroca collaris) and green-winged teal (Nettion carolinense). He also reports that a red-wing blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) lived in the barn with the horses, but that shortly after the horses were moved down to the Buffalo Ranch, about the middle of January, this bird disappeared. – W. E. Kearns (from Yellowstone Nature Notes Vol XIV, No 2 | Leaves from our Diaries)
  • 1937: Yellowstone | Northern Range – Today while skiing near the old Cooke Ranger Station, I saw an Engleman spruce loaded with cones, clear to-the-lowest limbs which were dragging in the snow (24″ of snow). It is a large tree, about 60 to 70 feet high and heavy in trunk, limbs, and foliage. So much for cones in the “upper third!” – Marguerite L. Arnold (from Yellowstone Nature Notes Vol XIV, No 2 | Leaves from our Diaries)
  • 2015: Wapiti WY – Foggy and frosty morning. A Mule Deer we recognize by her lighter eyes and floppy ears (less cartiledge we figure) showed up with her family. She’s definitely the lead dear of the group.

February 2

  • 1937: Yellowstone | Mammoth – Since coyotes are no longer being killed in the park, wise dogs that they are, they have quickly learned that they may come into Mammoth in daylight in safety. About seven o’clock this morning five coyotes met on the lower slopes of Capitol Hill within seventy five yards of our house. After leisurely investigating the setting, one of them suddenly elevated his nose and began to howl. A second dog, cocking his head, watched the first one a moment, and then joined in with gusto. The other three without waiting for any cue added their voices and their concerted efforts made the echoes ring. Stopping as suddenly as they had begun, they then went, as fancy directed, on over the hill and out of sight. – W.E.K. [Likely W.E.Kearns] (from Yellowstone Nature Notes Vol XIV, No 2 | Leaves from our Diaries)
  • 2015: Wapiti WY – Windy with a high gust of 53 mph. The wind blew some of the ice of the reservoir.
  • 2017: Cody WY – We had a Mule Deer buck drinking from the heated birdbath with no antlers – just fairly fresh bloody spots where they had been. 5″ of snow out of this storm.

February 3

  • 2016: Cody WY – Watched a pair of Magpies showing some courting behavior: high pitched, but quieter calls, one chasing/hopping after the other under a bush across the street.

February 4

  • 2015: Wapiti WY – Great Horned Owls were hooting early this morning. Three coyotes and a Golden Eagle pointed us to a deer carcass. Turned out to be a Mountain Lion kill of a Mule Deer doe about 400 yards from the house.
  • 2016: Pretty good windstorm underway – can’t remember if this is day two or three of it. Just lots of wind.
  • 2017: Chinook winds started overnight. Woke to find the outside temperature at 41°F.

February 6

  • 1937: Yellowstone | Northern Range – Bird visitors at the feeding tray at Cooke Ranger Station in January were: Canada jays (Perisoereus canadensis canadensis); Steller jays (Cyanocitta stelleri); Clark’s nutcrackers (Nucifraga columbiana); magpies (Pica pica hudsonia); mountain chickadees (Penthestes gambeli gambeli); pink-sided juncos (Junco mearnsi); red-breasted nuthatches (Sitta canadensis); pine grosbeak (Pinicola enucleator montana); rose-breasted grosbeak (Hedymeles ludovicianus); and the downy woodpeckers, (Dryobates pubescens medianus). Ravens (Corvus corax sinuatus) were also seen in the vicinity, and several gray ruffed grouse (Bonasa umbellus umbelloides) have come in quite close to the Station.While skiing on the hills toward Pebble Creek large flocks of very small birds were seen at about the 8500 foot elevation, but I was unable to get close enough to determine what they were. – E.L. Arnold (from Yellowstone Nature Notes Vol XIV, No 2 | Leaves from our Diaries)
  • 2015: Cody Area – Wind storm today. High gust recorded on Jim Mountain in Wapiti was a 95 mph with 70-80 mph sustained winds. Lost a few panels of roofing off the shop – they were guaranteed for 90 mph. Found them over on the neighbor’s property, straightened them and screwed them back on.

February 7

  • 1937: Yellowstone | Mammoth – “Stories in Snow” might well have been the title for observations made this afternoon on the slopes below Mammoth where the snow is piled soft and deep in the timber. In three different places tracks showed where a pine squirrel (Scirus hudsonicus ventorum) had eluded a winged pursuer, and then at the edge of he timber where the foolish squirrel had attempted to cross too wide an opening, the last chapter was written. The squirrel’s tracks led straight away from the tree for several yards, and then suddenly the pattern changed to circles, figure eights, and reverses, and here and there along these desperate attempts to escape were seen the wing marks of a large bird. After much turning, the squirrel must have decided to run for a nearby tree, for his track straightened out and he was away for nearly three yards before the track ended in a clawed hollow. Wing marks in the snow on either side of the termination of the trail gave mute evidence that the bird (perhaps a raven!) had been successful in his capture. About a yard from the end of the trail, marks in the snow made by the primaries of the bird and a dragging depression between, evidenced that the bird had had trouble in getting away. (A raven is suggested because many of them are constantly patrolling around Mammoth and one was observed actually in pursuit of a squirrel.) – W.E. Kearns (from Yellowstone Nature Notes Vol XIV, No 2 | Leaves from our Diaries)
  • 1938: Yellowstone | Fishing Bridge – A mature male Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) was observed today circling over an area some two hundred yards this side of Fishing Bridge. A coyote was seen in the same vicinity, but although I watched with the glasses for some time, I was unable to determine the object being stalked by bird and dog. –Frank Anderson (from Yellowstone Nature Notes Vol XV, Nos. 1-2 | Leaves from our Diaries)
  • 2016: Cody WY – Ended up with another 8″ of snow from this last storm. One of Mom’s friends said that makes 55″ so far this winter. The folks up above the Wapiti valley reported yet another foot of snow up there.

February 9

  • 1939: Yellowstone – A male Brown Creeper made his first visit of the season to our feeding tray to dine upon suet today. The five Stellar Jays (Cyanocitta stelleri) that are coming regularly to the tray, seem to be the survivors of the seven Jay-boarders of last winter. –Marguerite L. Arnold (from Yellowstone Nature Notes Vol XV, Nos. 1-2 | Leaves from our Diaries)
  • 2015: Yellowstone | Central Portion – First official sighting of a Grizzly Bear -“Blame the relatively mild winter weather for the early emergence of bears in the Greater Yellowstone area. The first confirmed report of grizzly bear activity in Yellowstone occurred on February 9. A grizzly bear was observed late in the afternoon, scavenging on a bison carcass in the central portion of the park.” (YNP News Release)
  • 2015: Wapiti WY – Zero wind and comfortably warm this morning. Rain showers and more wind through the day.
  • 2017: Cody WY – 41°F at 6:00 AM. The chinook winds have arrived. By afternoon most of the fresh snow (and more) had melted. Water everywhere. People were reporting whitecaps on the standing water throughout the area.

February 10

  • 2014: Yellowstone | Madison River Valley – A Great Blue Heron was seen. (YTG)
  • 2015: Wapiti WY – Mostly sunny and not too windy. Had Mule Deer (2 does and 3 yearlings) hang out with us most of the day. Saw a few rabbits.
  • 2017: Saw my first pair of ravens dancing their courtship on the wind. Flooding problems in Clark due to the fast melt and Sleeping Giant Ski Area closed due to the instability of the snow on the slopes. Heard at least 5 Great Horned Owls outside this evening.

February 11

  • 1938: Yellowstone – I saw a Townsend Solitaire (Myadestes townsendi) today in the trees near our home. –Billy Kearns (from Yellowstone Nature Notes Vol XV, Nos. 1-2 | Leaves from our Diaries)
  • 1938: Yellowstone – Charles L. Howard of the Weather Bureau has the following interesting information on precipitation for the past few weeks: The total amount of precipitation for January as melted was 1.41 inches which is more than for any January since 1923. The total for the first ten days of February was .55 inches. Total snowfall for Mammoth for January was 20.7 inches and for the first part of February, 10.4 inches, or a total of 31.1 inches in 41 days. The normal precipitation for the period is .99 inches, and there has been a total of 1.96 inches, or an increase, of nearly 100%. –W.E. Kearns (from Yellowstone Nature Notes Vol XV, Nos. 1-2 | Leaves from our Diaries)
  • 2014: Yellowstone | South End – The first Black Bear of the season was seen.
  • 2015: Wapiti WY – Dark-eyed Juncos seen hanging out in a draw not far from us. Golden Eagles soaring.
  • 2018: Cody WY – Birds seen at the feeder: 2 Red-breasted Nuthatches, 4+ Magpies (that finished off the suet), 1 Black-capped Chickadee, 1 Steller’s Jay, 9 Dark-eyed Juncos

February 12

  • 1938: Yellowstone | Mammoth – Northern Shrikes (Lanius borealis) were observed on the Terraces above Mammoth on January 3 and 20, at Mammoth twice in December and again on January 27, and in the willows near the Gardiner entrance today. –W.E. Kearns (from Yellowstone Nature Notes Vol XV, Nos. 1-2 | Leaves from our Diaries)
  • 2015: Wapiti WY – A Golden Eagle was on a Mule Deer carcass by the road just west of the Wapiti Post Office – they are huge birds.
  • 2018: Cody WY – Birds seen at the feeder: 2 Brown Creepers, 6 Dark-eyed Juncos, 1 Red-breasted Nuthatch, 4 Pine Siskens, 1 Eurasian Collared Dove, 3 House Finches, 1 Northern Flicker, 1 Black-capped Chickadee, 12+ Magpies, 1 Hairy Woodpecker, 1 Steller’s Jay, 15+ Ravens, 1 Townsend’s Solitaire

February 13

  • 2015: Cody WY – Amazingly warm! In the low 60s in town and it seemed everyone was outside.
  • 2015: Wapiti WY – Saw a Loggerhead Shrike.
  • 2018: Cody WY – Birds seen at the feeder today: Dark-eyed Juncos, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Pine Siskens, Black-capped Chickadees, Magpies, House Finch

February 15

  • 1937: Yellowstone | Mammoth – While skiing near Angel Terrace with Frank Oberhansley this morning, we heard a beautiful lyric bird-song which puzzled us both. A warbler at his best would have been given stiff competition by this songster. Suddenly the delightful melody was interrupted by harsh, querulous notes, followed closely by raucous calls, and then the versatile singer appeared in the limber pine (Pinus flexilis) where he had been screened from view. It didn’t seem possible that the Steller Jay (Cyanocitta Stelleri) could be the producer of such a repertoire but just to prove it, he repeated his performance in full view. – W.E.Kearns (from Yellowstone Nature Notes Vol XIV, No 2 | Leaves from our Diaries)
  • 2015: Yellowstone – Another Grizzly Bear was spotted in the park.
  • 2015: Wapiti WY – 1-2″ of snow. Haven’t been very good at writing down snow depths this winter. Hard to pin down a depth sometimes with so much wind – unless it sticks on the vertical surfaces.
  • 2017: Cody WY – Birds seen at the feeder today: Northern Flicker, Magpie, Dark-eyed Juncos, Pine Siskens, Black-capped Chickadees.

February 16

  • 2015: Wapiti WY – Woke to 1/2″ of snow. Snow showers through the day gave us about 3-4″ total.
  • 2017: Cody WY – Alkali Lake has some open water after weeks of being frozen over. Got a report of 20″ of ice on the South Fork Dam area (Buffalo Bill Reservoir), but a little squishy along the edge. Two Mule Deer bucks were seen in town with only one antler each with two others pushing them around by just lowering their full set toward them. All the Mule Deer were skittish, cautious and looking around more. Most likely due to the gunshots heard from the culling of the town herd.
  • 2017: Cody | North Fork – Drove up North Fork this afternoon to Pahaska and back. Ice fishermen were out on the reservoir, but lots of melt water was making it slick for them to walk. 45 degrees (F) at Pahaska at 2:40 PM. Not many animals out as there was deep snow from the Forest Service boundary on up. Did see two Mule Deer does at Newton Springs, but not one Bighorn Sheep. Also saw a pair of Bald Eagles in the Wapiti flying overhead around the Red Barn. A call to a friend out there let me know where the wildlife was – on Jim Mtn. He had a group of 25 or so Mule Deer around his house, plus a good sized group of Elk were there as well.

February 17

  • 2015: Wapiti WY – We found tons of coyote tracks on a walk. Golden Eagle pair sitting side by side in a tree on the ridge above us – we’ve not seen where they’re nesting this year.
  • 2016: Cody | In Town – Heard the first courting song from a Eurasian Collared Dove.
  • 2018: Cody WY – Snowed all day. Ended up with about 6-7″ out of the storm.

February 18

  • 2015: Wapiti WY – First breeding behavior seen in the rabbits – hopping in pairs and triplets and chasing.
  • 2015: Cody WY – Black-capped Chickadees singing courting songs almost continually.
  • 2018: Cody WY – Snowed all day. Ended up with about 6-7″ of snow out of this storm.

February 19

  • 2019: Meeteetse Area – Pronghorn (Antelope) are starting to gather out near the Hoodoo Ranch. Saw over a dozen golden eagles and bald eagles on our drive today. We also spotted around 1000 elk on a bench, mule deer, whitetail deer and a group of Steller’s Jays.

February 20

  • 2017: Cody WY – While we’ve had one pair of Eurasian Collared Doves stay for the winter, a second pair was seen for the first time today. Is this the end of their range? A few years ago there were an amazing number that stayed all winter. Even last summer, though, we saw fewer of them.
  • 2019: Cody WY –  Heard my first black-capped chickadee singing a courting song today.

February 21

  • 2015: Wapiti WY – Snowing and cold today.
  • 2017: Cody WY – Heard the first Northern Flicker territorial call of the year today. A pair (possibly a trio) has hung around all winter and routinely inspect the Kestrel House. Heard the first Eurasian Collared Dove territorial call. Rain showers today gave the first rainbow of the year. Ice fishermen on the Upper Sunshine Reservoir had a great day.

February 22

  • 2015: Wapiti WY – A group of about 20 bull Elk were seen on the top of Table Mountain with a spotting scope. The antlers clearly showed in the shadows on the snow. Elk cows were in a group down a bit lower.

February 23

  • 2015: Wapiti WY – Cold but calm today.
  • 2016: Yellowstone | Nez Perce Drainage – The first sighting of a Grizzly Bear came from Quinn Harrison while doing a wolf survey flight.
  • 2016: Cody | In Town – Some time in the past couple of days, the winter groups of Mule Deer have broken up into smaller family groups and have left their consistent winter routes.
  • 2017: Cody | In Town – Had a skiff of snow this morning.

February 24

  • 2015: Wapiti WY – A bit warmer today – winds increasing throughout the day. The Mule Deer are starting to look a bit messy as their winter coats start to loosen. One actually looks quite brown. Those that are pregnant are starting to show a baby bump.
  • 2018: Cody WY – Wind storm started up last night with strong winds throughout the day. One of the Mule Deer bucks has his coat starting to loosen.

February 25

  • 2018: Cody WY – The wind storm continued through the night and all day again today. The Ravens are loving it – playing and dancing on the wind in large groups or in pairs that practice their synchronized moves. Spotted the first Mule Deer buck with only one antler. There’s a group of 9 or 10 bucks (and 2 does) that come by the house pretty much every day in the late afternoon. Yesterday, they all had both antlers.
  • 2019: Cody WY – Woke to 3-4″ of snow. The black-capped chickadees are looking seriously at one of the nest boxes.

February 26

  • 2017:  Cody WY – Drove out South Fork as far as the TE Ranch and back. Red-tailed Hawks were in the trees next to the nest on Marquette Creek. No Mountain Bluebirds seen.
  • 2019: Cody WY – Cold and snow all day. Don’t think we ever got out of the single digits.

February 27

  • 2014: Yellowstone | Fishing Bridge – The first Grizzly Bear of the year was seen one mile north of Fishing bridge (the photo seems to have come to light after the other reporting of a Grizzly Bear seen on March 4). Photo courtesy of June Dunn.
  • 2016: Yellowstone | Lamar Valley – Deby DIxon of Running Wolf Nature Photography reports that members of the Lamar Wolf Pack were seen mating.
  • 2019: Cody WY – Woke to more snow – I think we’ve received 6-8″ so far and there’s more coming down.

February 28

  • 2017: Cody WY – Open water see on Beck Lake today – haven’t seen that in awhile. Windy.
  • 2019: Cody WY – Starlings showed up today for the first time this year, looking at the kestrel box. Black-capped chickadees singing furiously today. Also singing courting songs were pine siskens and house finches.