November brings more weather changes to Jackson Hole as the days continue to shorten and the landscape becomes more wintry. By Halloween, local residents expect snow know is time to dig out the warm layers, hats, and gloves to prepare for fun outdoor opportunities. The November wind carries a sharpness and we physically identify with the harsh beginning of winter. As the snow falls and the ski areas open, we remember all the joys the icy wind and snow deliver.
Wildlife Reach Winter Habitats
As weather changes, animals move to their winter territories and adjust behavior to further minimize calorie loss. Big Horn Sheep can be found on Miller Butte outside of the town of Jackson. This herd moves to lower elevation in the winter to a thinner snow pack and more mild weather. We begin to see Rough-legged Hawks on fence posts. These raptors summer in the Arctic and will remain in Jackson for the winter if they find enough food. This depends on the snow pack level and the ease of catching rodents.
One of the biggest changes that I noticed this November were the number of Trumpeter Swans on Flat Creek. They come to the valley to winter and the number of birds was amazing! I counted well over 50 adult and young swans. You can see them on Highway 89/191 near the edge of town on Flat Creek in the National Elk Refuge. Swans need free flowing water to take off and land so temperatures will determine where they go. As long as it doesn’t get cold enough to freeze Flat Creek, you’ll find them feeding and resting along this stretch of water.
Chronic Wasting Disease
Sadly, Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) was confirmed in Grand Teton Park this month. A male Mule Deer was hit by a vehicle and tested positive for the disease. This was not a surprise since previously found in other Mule Deer within 100 miles of Jackson Hole. CWD is a chronic fatal disease of the central nervous system which is easily spread between members of the deer family. Since 11fatal to deer, moose, and elk, hunters are encouraged to submit a tissue sample from a harvested animal. The Wyoming Game and Fish and Grand Teton National Park have been proactive to test any road kill. Mule deer have long migration routes so one animal can travel through many parts of the state. This is a story to follow and could greatly affect local deer populations.
Reminder: Winter Closures
Winter closures begin on December 1 on the hills surrounding Jackson Hole to protect wintering wildlife by minimizing human disturbance. The closure extends from December 1 through April 30. Check out this link to local maps: https://jhalliance.org/campaigns/dont-poach-the-powder/. Winter is a very stressful time of the year for wildlife. Please respect these closures!
What’s in the Woods (Field Notes)
11/6 Highway 22/Snake River — mule deer grazing
11/7 Jackson, WY — cassin’s finch, magpie, red squirrel
11/7 Wilson, WY — red-tailed Hawk
11/14 Flat Creek/Elk Refuge — 40+ adult and young trumpeter swans
11/18 Elk Refuge — three bull elk bedded down near fence
11/24 — snowing and stormy
There are many great resources to help you choose a cross-county skiing tour location, find snow conditions, grooming schedules, and much more.
JH Nordic is a comprehensive site for the valley and informs us about “everything Nordic.”
Teton County Parks and Recreation has groomed a number of local trails near the town of Jackson. Here is their grooming schedule:
Teton Canyon is also a local favorite and is located in Alta, Wyoming. You do need to drive over Teton Pass to reach this trailhead for a wonderful 8-mile ski with epic Teton views.