Temperatures continued to fluctuate in February and all types of weather were experienced in Jackson Hole. More snow fell in the Tetons with valley weather a mix of snow and rain. This winter is being defined as mild with warm temperatures and a thin snowpack at lower elevations. A thin valley snowpack helps the wildlife and a great year for wildlife sightings such as this wolf seen near Shadow Mountain in the Gros Ventre Range. Photo shared by Hans Beldhuis who toured with The Hole Hiking Experience in early February.
Since the National Elk Refuge was established in 1912, there have only been nine winters without supplemental feed. Elk use their hooves to scratch through the snow/ice to reach vegetation. When snow gets too deep or crusty, they are fed to help survival. Due to our mild winter, the feeding program is on hold. In mid-February, refuge wildlife managers reported zero snow at the monitoring sites and some of the animals are moving north for forage which usually occurs in the spring. Time will tell and decisions can change. https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/wyoming/articles/2018-02-15/elk-refuge-considers-halting-feeding-program-this-winter
The Refuge currently reports 5000 elk within its’ 25,000 acres. The sleigh/wagon ride continues through March and a fun way to see the elk and look for other species such as eagles, coyotes, wolves, big horn sheep, birds and much more. The ride is 45 minutes and departs the visitor center on North Cache Street in downtown Jackson.
In recent news, the state of Montana reports NO grizzly hunt in 2018. I applaud the state and the decision to not hunt grizzlies for the first year without government protection. Grizzly bears were removed from the Endangered Species Act in 2017. Within the tri-state area of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming, grizzly bears will be managed by the individual states. Hunting will be regulated and monitored by each state’s Game and Fish department. Current grizzly population is predicted to be over 700 bears in this ecosystem. Survival of the grizzly indicates the overall health of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem so their success matters.
This amazing elusive bear speaks to our wildness. It is a top predator and an intelligent species. When iconic Grizzly 399 lost her cub due to vehicle collision, she pulled her dying cub from the road. Who are we to decide life and death? I am not that person. I wish for all beings to be peaceful and free and having grizzlies in this ecosystem feeds my wildness within.
March begins with a winter storm. Spring can be quite snowy in Jackson Hole so lots of potential weather to come.
What’s in the woods
2/8- skunk in parking lot at Hermitage Point, Grand Teton Park
2/9- cow moose along Snake River, near bridge- Highway 22
2/10- Bald Eagle and immature on Teton Village Road
2/11-Snow King Avenue- Karns Meadow, herd of mule deer foraging
2/14- base of snow king mountain- cow moose and young male browsing
2/15- foot of snow in the mountains
2/15- herd of cow elk near the Snake River/Highway 22
2/17- winter storm with good valley snow
2/19- Off to Kauai, Hawaii for a winter break!
March begins with a winter storm and snow accumulates in the Jackson Hole Valley. This new snow gives lots of options. Best resource is JH Nordic which shares updates on current grooming in the area. Near town, both Cache Creek and Game Creek are skiing well. Take advantage of the ski to Jenny Lake in Grand Teton Park. The road will be plowed later in March so this tour option will end. Have fun! Bears will begin to emerge from dens so be bear aware and carry spray.