As January ends, snow is deep in the mountains, elk and bison are being fed on the National Elk Refuge, over 250 inches of snow has fallen at 9000 feet and a rain/snow mix falls at lower elevations. Winter is half over in our small valley.
Climate change is a fact. I am often asked what will the weather be like? Well, it used to be cold and snowy and now it is warm and rainy. Roads in town are extremely icy as the freeze / thaw cycle occurs. We are fortunate in Jackson since valley elevation is over 6000 feet. I truly hope that our impact on the earth changes and we stop warming the atmosphere. I have lived in this ski town for 30 years and the climate has changed.
January begins feeding of elk on the National Elk Refuge. Bison come to the refuge for the easy meal. Both species are fed alfalfa pellets. Bison can be quite feisty so push the elk off the feed if they are nearby. Because of their behavior, they get fed first on the back side of the refuge. As they are busy eating, the refuge staff hurries to the elk to avoid problems. They will be fed until March when spring conditions allow more natural forage.
Feeding is controversial since the possibility of disease increases. If an elk gets sick, disease is more easily spread when in close proximity to others. Chronic Wasting Disease has been found in the state and neighboring Colorado. It is viral and can quickly kill a herd. No real solution since the elk will starve without feed. We live on their historical winter grounds. Balance is hard to find.
January is also mating season for canines. The full moon came with yipping coyotes. Wolves have been seen on the elk refuge near Miller Butte. They are active and mating. Canines have an eight week gestation period so mating occurs now so young are born in the spring.
Mid-winter is a great time to look for tracks in our snowy environment. Movement on the snow leaves a great story. We went out for a tracking day and saw weasel, coyote, squirrel, snowshoe hare, flying squirrel!, vole, and mouse tracks. It is great fun to explore the woods, look for animal sign, and learn about movement and patterns.
February 2014 was extremely snowy. So far, this month begins with storms. Let’s have a snowy month without rain. Walking is treacherous but just a bit out of town, it is wintry and snowy so all is well. Truly.
What’s in the woods
1/5- winter storm, over two feet of new snow, high avalanche danger
1/7- town of jackson- heavy fog, house finch resting in my chokecherry bush
1/9- Wilson- belted kingfisher on powerline over fish creek
1/10- fall creek rd- young bull moose, porcupine
1/16- snow in forecast
1/17- fall creek near town- American dipper, three clark-nutcracker’s
1/23- rafter J- mature swan, muskrat, male and female mallard
1/24- togwotee- four moose, bison
In early February, options are endless. Check out JH Nordic- http://jhnordic.com/ – for grooming schedules and trail suggestions. Go to a ski resort to alpine ski or board. Take a snowshoe tour beneath the majestic Teton Peaks at the Taggert Lake trailhead in Grand Teton Park. Cache Creek near the town of Jackson is also a great option. Make sure to monitor your dogs and clean up after them. Look for tracks, breath the fresh air and enjoy this quite season. Light will begin to change by March so signs of spring are right around the corner. Have fun!