September brought idyllic conditions with days of sun and fall color. Grizzly Bears came to the Moose-Wilson Road to gorge on berries. Mating season began with the bugle of the bull elk and the grunt of the bull moose. Soft fall light welcomes us on the trail.
Our rainy and cool summer has many locals contemplating winter weather. The love of skiing is rampant in our small valley so the question of “how good will the winter be?” is a common one.
I watch for signs as species prepare for winter. I visit a midden, the territory of a red squirrel. By middle of this month, the squirrel has cached numerous cones. It climbs the Lodgepole Pine to bite the ends of the branches so the cones fall to the ground littering the trail. Looking closely, you can find piles of cones hidden at the base of trees. A deer hunter told me his deer had a “fat cap” on his rump. Local legend believes this is a sign of a big winter. Time will tell. It certainly is fun to imagine deep powder and the weightlessness as you soar down the slope.
My heart is heavy to report the death of a cow moose. Campers at the Gros Ventre Campground hazed a cow moose with a calf. They surrounded her, invaded her personal space, and made her so uncomfortable that she jumped over a picnic table, caught her leg and fell into a fire pit. She had to be euthanized. The calf is motherless.
Some people felt it was their right to take photos of the moose. It’s public land for our enjoyment, right? I don’t agree. All species require personal space. The comfort zone we all need and will ensure for safety. This death was avoidable. The calf will surely die too. I hope that those involved feel true remorse. Can we balance and respect all species? Can we learn?
Some visitors were irate that the Moose-Wilson Road was closed. Granted it’s a direct route to Grand Teton Park from the western side of the valley but grizzlies were in the area. They gorge themselves in the fall and a bush laden with fruit is too hard to ignore. These majestic animals lose 40 percent of body fat during winter hibernation. So we have to drive a bit further, isn’t that best so the bears can survive? Will we gain enough intelligence to honestly look at our behavior? Be held accountable?
I cherish the opportunity to live in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. One of the few places the web of life is intact. This area supports diversity. Over 11,000 years ago people came to this amazing lush valley. They came to hunt. They respected the richness of life. They were dependent on it. Today we live differently. There is so much to lose if we can’t respect / treat life with the intention of freedom and peace for all species. My heart is heavy. Wildlife often loses. To learn from one’s mistakes is a sign of growth. Please let us grow.
The month ends with rain. It falls gently on the roof. It whispers change. Town quiets as we begin the slow season of fall. I am off to Yellowstone to sit in the Boiling River where the heat of the earth mixes with the coolness of the Gardiner River. I go to sit, feel the heat, and connect to a web of life that is bigger than I can ever imagine.
What’s in the woods
9/6- unsettled weather
9/7- berries galore! Munger Mountain- snowberry, chokecherry, serviceberry,
9/8- LSR preserve- hawthorn berries heavy on bushes
9/10- Moose-Wilson Road closed in Grand Teton Park due to bear activity
9/11- bluebird day with frost overnight
9/14- Wilson, WY- young bull moose following cow and calf moose
9/14- Grand Teton Park- elk bugling, Sandhill Cranes, short-tailed weasel
9/15- Munger Mountain- Great Grey Owl
9/20- Delta Lake- mule deer
9/21- Wilson, WY- cow moose with two calves, large bull
9/22- rainy and cool- start of fall
9/26- Glory Bowl- ravens, red-tail hawks, numerous chipmunks
9/27- 9/30- rainy
9/30- Rafter J- red tail hawk being hazed by five magpies
Snow will soon cover the peaks making recreation at lower elevations best. Bike paths are the perfect fall option when trails get muddy. The change of weather will start fall migration and the evening trip to listen to the elk is always fun. The Bradley and Taggert Lake area is a great fall hike in Grand Teton Park and you can hear elk in this area. A drive into Lupine Meadows at dusk is an ideal place to find elk herds. Watch from a distance. Make wise decisions.