February brought signs of spring, a mix of weather, and noticeably more light to the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Town is showing some bare earth but still plenty of snow on the hillsides and north. Lots of moose have been seen along the Teton Village Road/Highway 390 and in Wilson, WY. A male grizzly was seen in Yellowstone. Change cometh.
Grizzlies have also emerged at The Earthfire Institute in Teton Valley, Idaho. They have four grizzlies and they recently left their dens. The staff reports that the bears prefer leafy greens when they wake. Wild grizzlies feed on spring plants so it makes sense that the bears would prefer greens. Bears are up early this year. Wild bears will look for a carcass and have to wait a bit longer for the green plants of spring.
February temperatures created corn snow. Corn snow is granular snow that forms as daytime temperatures melt the snow to refreeze at night. This cycle creates optimal conditions when the snow begins to melt each day. You need to have warm days and cold/freezing nights.
If you time it right, you can ski on the top surface of the hard snow. It’s fun to “crust” ski through the meadows. When the snow is firm, you can go anywhere and not sink. Backcountry skiers also enjoy these conditions when touring in the mountains. It’s all about timing to get optimal smooth snow.
When spring settles early in the valley, we can’t help but think of climate change. I am often asked do I see the changes? Notice differences? Yes, but who doesn’t if they have lived someplace for 30 years? I recently saw a Great Blue Heron soaring above the Snake River and it feels early for its’ return. Bears continue to wake from dens earlier in the spring. Fewer elk go to winter feed grounds since sufficient forage is available elsewhere. Yes, I see change.
This awareness gives us all the opportunity to make wise choices and protect the earth. Just think what a small change within our population could mean? Turn off the faucet. Reduce your use of plastic. Take public transportation and skip a day of driving. I truly hope that we make the best choices to protect the earth for future generations. Let’s make wise choices before we reach a tipping point.
What’s in the woods
2/3- red tail hawk on village road
2/5- East Gros Ventre Butte, near town- herds of mule deer and elk
2/6- Kelly, WY- herd of bison
2/6- Gros Ventre River- two moose
2/9- coyotes yipping on East Gros Ventre Butte- it’s mating season!
2/13- bald eagle on village road
2/15- warm and rainy
2/18-rain then turned cooler to snow
2/20- JHMR reports 300 inches of snow
2/20- snake river- great blue heron
2/24-teton village road- female moose, bald eagle
2/25- granite canyon- ermine playing on the snow!
2/25- teton village road- bald eagle, coyote
2/6- wenzel lane- moose in neighboord- female and cow/calf pair
2/28- trompeters swans flying over Wilson
2/29- warm and stormy
If conditions create corn snow, go play. You can crust ski across the meadows in Grand Teton Park. Go to Taggert Lake trailhead and off you go. Timbered Island is north and I have heard of wolf tracks in the area. Journey east toward the Snake River or just ski beneath the peaks. You have to go early because once the snow starts to melt, you will begin to sink and the crust will be gone. Have fun and take bear spray!