As a photographer in Utah, the winter can be a challenging time to find wildlife. The mountain regions are largely snow-covered and challenging to access. A lot of wildlife has gone into hibernation or moved south to find warmer weather. Despite the seasonal change, there are locations in Utah that remain a consistent hotspot for wildlife.
Rising out of Great Salt Lake is Antelope Island State Park. There are always bison to find on Antelope Island that are hard to miss. The rest of the wildlife can be found with some consistency as well by looking closer to dawn or dusk. The mule deer and pronghorn antelope roam the grasslands of the island. There are several unique species of birds that can be found both on the island and in the lake. There really is a lot to see no matter the time of year. The winter does have one big plus, however: there are no mosquitos!
No matter the time of year, the hardest species to find are always the large predators of the ecosystem. That challenge has fueled me this winter as I have concentrated my efforts on finding coyotes. A common spot to find them has been in the field near the White Rock Loop Trail and the White Rock Bay Campground. Many of my sightings of coyotes have been in the nearby field where they regularly hunt mice and other prey in the tall grasses.
This winter, I watched a pair of coyotes walk on the ice towards the entrance to the island. It was amazing to witness them scavenge a carcass and appear to play on the frozen lake. They walked far out onto the ice as if it was a normal thing.
There’s a quote from photographer Simon Baxter that really stuck with me while I was out exploring the island. “Science is the study to learn the truth, whereas art is our own expression of reality. But we shouldn’t separate the two.” Each of the many times I drove out to Antelope Island State Park this winter, I was drawn by both my desire to capture artistic pieces and gain a further understanding of the natural world. In many ways, that is my life as a photographer.
In the winter, it is easy to talk yourself out of a long drive in the snow. But even when it’s miserable to be outside, you can find unique experiences in nature that will have an impact on your life. I have certainly been lucky to have my own this winter.