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Wintering Wildlife in Arkansas


Arkansas may not spend the winter covered in a blanket of snow. Still, the inhabitants of Arkansas’s forests and lakes undergo fascinating transformations and exhibit surprising habits to survive the colder months. While some animals hibernate, others adapt in unexpected ways, showcasing the remarkable resilience of Arkansas wildlife. Many Arkansas residents have come to believe snakes hibernate and summer and fall are considered “tick season.” Are these assumptions correct? Let’s explore the wintering wildlife habits of some creatures that may surprise even seasoned nature enthusiasts.

Birds and Waterfowl

Although many of our birds will head south for the winter, Arkansas becomes a temporary haven for many migratory birds during winter. Ducks, geese, pelicans and swans all spend the winter in Arkansas.
The Swans at Magness Lake
8 Winter Birds to Observe in Arkansas


Opossums are known for their adaptability, which extends to their winter habits. While many animals are hidden away during the colder nights, opossums emerge to explore the winter landscape. Their foraging activity increases during winter as they search for food in the quieter nighttime hours.

Photo by Terry Mitchell and used with permission.


Arkansas is home to 16 bat species, and during winter, these winged wonders exhibit unique roosting habits. Some species, such as the tri-colored bat, may migrate to warmer regions, while others seek refuge in many of Arkansas’s caves. Huddling together in groups, bats conserve body heat and energy, entering a state of torpor during the colder months. Their winter behavior is crucial for their survival until the return of warmer temperatures and insect abundance.
Bats in Arkansas
Arkansas Caves

Arkansas Elk Viewing


Elk are well-equipped to deal with weather and temperature changes, but as winter reduces the availability of grasses and other preferred food sources, Arkansas elk will adapt their foraging strategies. They may feed woody vegetation, such as shrubs and tree twigs, which can still provide essential nutrients. Elk are known to be opportunistic feeders, adjusting their diet based on seasonal availability. Elk viewing opportunities are often at their highest during the colder months as the elk tend to group together more, and it’s easier to spot them once the leaves have fallen.


Arkansas black bears enter a state of torpor during winter, not true hibernation. While their metabolic rate decreases, they may wake up occasionally to move or even give birth. Pregnant females typically give birth during this period, relying on the fat reserves accumulated during the warmer months to sustain them and their cubs until spring.

Box Turtles

Arkansas is home to two species of box turtles, the three-toed and the ornate. These turtles burrow into the ground, where they find refuge in the insulation provided by soil and leaf litter. They brumate for much of the colder months and can survive for months without food, although they may wake up and move or eat during warm spells.


Contrary to popular belief, snakes in Arkansas don’t hibernate all winter. Many of the state’s 36 snake species enter a state of brumation. This is a reptilian form of hibernation where snakes become less active, seeking refuge in underground burrows or rock crevices to escape the winter chill. While not all snakes brumate, those that do conserve energy until the return of warmer temperatures. It is possible to see snakes, including venomous snakes, all winter, especially on warmer days.


Ticks are often associated with warmer months, but in Arkansas, some species remain active even during winter. These resilient arachnids can be found questing for hosts in leaf litter or low vegetation. While their activity may be reduced compared to the summer months, the risk of tick encounters persists, making year-round vigilance essential for those exploring the great outdoors.

Arkansas winters are generally mild, yet our wildlife displays a variety of survival strategies to make it through times of colder temperatures and depleted food sources. Yet, even in the colder months, the Natural State teems with life, each species revealing unique adaptations that contribute to the intricate balance of its ecosystems.  Arkansas’ wildlife, with their winter habits, invites us to slow down, observe, and appreciate the hidden wonders that unfold in the stillness of the season.

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Julie Kohl works from home as a writer and teaches art part-time at a local private school. A former Yankee who was "converted" to the south by her husband, Julie has grasped on to rural life in a sleepy, blink-your-eyes-and-you'll-miss-it town in central Arkansas where they raise chickens, farm hay and bake bread. Julie loves adventure and sharing it with her husband and son. They frequent the trails, campgrounds and parks of Arkansas, always on the hunt for new adventures and new stories to share. Learn more on her blog Seek Adventures Media.

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