Winter Wildlife in the New River Gorge

In the summertime, the New River Gorge is a hotspot for outdoor recreation of many kinds. The Gorge swarms with adventure seekers enjoying the river, the rocks and the woods that make this area so spectacular. And animals live here for the same reasons. It’s remote and rugged and has plenty of place for them to hide out. Because of this, many people visit the Gorge and never see an animal of any kind.
Animals tend to make themselves scarce when the Gorge bustles with activity but they relax and get more comfortable when winter shows up. If you really want to see some of the critters that call the Gorge home, now is a great time to look for them.

Raccoons hanging out in the Gorge. Photo by Opossum Creek Retreat.

Who Lives Here
There are many different species of animals that live here; some are just less likely to be seen than others.  You might run across:

  • Squirrels
  • Raccoons
  • Skunks
  • Opossums
  • Turkey
  • Deer
  • Bear
  • Coyotes
  • Bobcats
  • Mink
  • Otters

This doesn’t include all the birds and small rodents that live here too. Plenty of amphibians and reptiles call this area home, but they prefer the summer months and are in hibernation in the winter.
Winter Viewing
If you want to see wildlife, winter is the season to spend some time in the New River Gorge. Curious as to why this time of year is great for wildlife spotting? Here’s  the lowdown, and some ways to increase your chances of seeing a critter.

  • Snow – When the Gorge gets a billowy, white blanket of snow, it makes for a great time to go wildlife viewing. Most of the animals are darker in color, so they will stand out against a snowy background. You can also look for tracks and traces of animals in the snow.
  • Food – Animals that don’t hibernate will still need to eat, but their options for food can get scarce. This will mean they may start roving the woods in search of new sources, making them easier to find.
  • Seclusion – With fewer people exploring the Gorge environment, the animals feel more secure and comfortable. They will be more likely to venture closer to trails and areas that they would avoid in the summer.
  • Quiet – The less noise you can make when looking for animals, the better chance you will have of seeing one. And make sure you take time to sit quietly in one spot for a little bit. Getting in a hurry, you may miss out on lots of critters.

Winter is a great time to visit the Gorge for many reasons, and wildlife viewing is just one of them. Remember to take your camera on your adventure. You never know what you may see.
What animal would you like to see in the Gorge?