It’s September and seasonal transition begins here in the Rocky Mountains. Fall brings shorter days with soft light, frosty mornings, the eerie sounds of the Elk Bugle, and yellow hues dancing on the hillsides. We’ll see fewer visitors and more wildlife activity as Autumn descends on Jackson Hole.
It’s weird to transition to Fall without cold and wet weather. Jackson Hole has not received any rain for the entire month. Wow! A few sprinkles finally found us on September 30 but the month has been dry and vegetation is shriveled and crispy.
Due to this dry trend, it was not a surprise that fire danger reached “extreme” and fires were reported near Jackson Hole on September 17. The largest fire in the country, the Roosevelt Fire, burns about 50 miles south of Jackson near Bondurant, Wyoming. It is believed to be lightning caused and has burned 60,000 acres. When lighting strikes, heat can remain in the vegetation then explode into fire as conditions change. Recent high winds stoked the fire and the cool night temperatures haven’t seemed to help. Sadly, 55 homes have been lost. For fire updates, www.tetonfire.com is a great resource.
Wildlife Mating & Migration
Wildlife activity peaks as the weather changes. It’s mating season for many large animals and migration begins. Bull Elk can be heard bugling (a guttural vocalization to attract females while staking their territory). In the chilly morning light, you can hear the bugle and see the clouds of steam rise from the Bull’s mouth. Quite a sight. Males can be feisty so be aware when in their vicinity.
Animals are most active at dawn and dusk. As motorists, we must be extra prudent driving at those times through wildlife corridors. Sadly a fourth Moose, a lactating female, was hit on the Moose-Wilson Road, leaving another calf without its mother. As animals migrate toward winter territories, they primarily move at night. Be careful.
As daylight wanes, Bears enter a phase of hyperphagia, a period of excessive eating and drinking to prepare for hibernation. They appear more agitated and hurried. It’s also hunting season, and they eat animal gut piles as good source of protein. In recent years, Bears have delayed winter hibernation due to this steady food source. Wildlife researchers are questioning the possibilities of lead poisoning from bullets. This theory remains unanswered but has been identified in Bald Eagles who also eat carrion.
I am happy to report that Federal protection of Grizzly Bears continues and the proposed Grizzly hunt in Wyoming and Idaho was successfully blocked. A Montana judge, Dana Christensen, contested the hunt and ruled that removing the protections increased the risk of extinction. Many Grizzlies have already been shot this year due to human conflicts.
Cool Temps, Warm Hues
September ends with sunny skies and vivid fall colors. Warm days and cool nights enhance fall foliage and this is a colorful year! Moisture is in the forecast which will be a welcomed change. As our valley takes on the slower pace of Fall, the traffic subsides, restaurants offer specials, and locals are busy doing fall chores and reuniting with friends. It’s an enjoyable time in Jackson Hole that most would call “idyllic.”
What’s in the Woods (Field Notes)
9/3 – blue bird skies
9/7 – hummingbirds mostly gone
9/8 – smoke/haze returns to valley
9/1 – Highway 22: Bald Eagle
9/16 – several fires begin in the area, fire danger is increased to very high
9/17 – Flat Creek: swallow drinking water, coyote
9/18 – Town of Jackson: two Mule Deer in my yard
9/22 – red flag fire warning
9/23 – Snake River Range/N Fork Fall Creek: Mormon cricket, grasshoppers, dried vegetation
9/25 – Highway 22: coyote mousing near Wilson, WY
9/28 – Highway 390: young bull moose running along road
9/30 – Munger Mountain beautiful Fall colors
Wildlife drives are great in the Fall. Animals are on the move and Elk are bugling. Driving the Moose-Wilson Road, the inner Park loop and Antelope Flats makes a nice wildlife driving loop tour in Grand Teton Park. Numerous options for time on the trail. Munger Mountain has beautiful Aspen Groves. Park trails and LSR Reserve are less crowded, Bradley/Taggert and Phelps Lake/Death Canyon are rewarding easy hikes. For a challenge, head into the canyon of your choice and begin the incline into the Tetons to stretch your legs. No rain this month has made vegetation crispy but you can’t beat the beautiful blue bird days. Not as smoky as August so a nice time to get outdoors! #natureawaitsyou