October has been a beautiful month. We’ve had the perfect balance of sun, warmth, rain and early frost. The light seems to change daily as it softens into shorter days. The month ends warm and dry with no elk visible on the National Elk Refuge. Squirrels continue to cache cones and reserves are growing. Will it be a big snow year??
Wolves made the news again as US District Judge, Amy Berman Jackson, protected wolves in Wyoming under the Endangered Species Act. The judge felt the state of Wyoming didn’t have a plan to guarantee the minimum requirement of 100 wolves and 10 breeding pairs outside of Yellowstone Park. The decision came the evening before the scheduled hunting season. The fight continues as our governor, Matt Mead, decides whether to appeal the order.
I have the opportunity to hike with many people from the eastern United States. I continuously hear about the over population of White-tail Deer and the damage they do. To be biologically rich and diverse, predator-prey relationships are integral for species diversity, health, and population size. The wolf and elk co-evolved together. This relationship enables nature to be healthy and intact so maybe allowing wolves to survive is the right decision?
Trumpeter swans also made the news with record nesting pairs on the National Elk Refuge. 12 cygnets hatched and 10 survived to fledge. The warm, dry spring conditions of May and June directly contribute to this success. You might see them from the visitor center on North Cache Street.
There is a stable swan population in the tri-state area of Wyoming, Idaho and Montana. In the winter, more swans can be seen since Canadian Trumpeter Swans migrate to this region to spend the winter. You can’t beat the joy in your heart when majestic swans fly above, on thermals, sharing their beauty and seven foot wing span.
The end of the month brought a bit more snow to the Tetons. Our local meteorologist, Jim Woodmency, reported well above average precipitation this September and in 2013. Each of the summer months- June, July and August- had lower than normal temperatures. Hard to predict winter but this cool, wet trend might continue and how great is that??
What’s in the woods
10/1-10/3- Yellowstone- big horn sheep, elk, bison, mule deer, moose- beautiful weather
10/9-10/19- Granite Creek- mule deer, bull moose, bald eagles, stellar days
10/22- some fall colors still dot hillsides
10/23- Munger Mountain- mule deer, magpies
10/29- Swan Valley- mature bald eagle
10/31- Gros Ventre River- four moose / Antelope Flats- group of pronghorn
On November 1, winter wildlife closures go into effect so make sure that you recreate where trails are open. Lots of trails near town are closed since prime winter habitat and our presence can greatly stress the animals. Winter is a tough time for an herbivore so distance is key.
The valley trail is always great near Taggert Lake or Granite Canyon in Grand Teton Park. The old pass road near Wilson, WY is a great fall hike with numerous trails and the road is a great option when muddy. You access the trailhead by driving west from Wilson and turning left at the Heidelberg at the base of Teton Pass. The road ends at the trailhead. Have fun and enjoy the first storms of the season. I’m off to Arizona and warmer climates.