April was wet and cool but the sunny days felt like Spring! Jackson Hole is 43 degrees North latitude so days get noticeably longer at this time of year. The grass is turning green on the valley floor and the snow continues to melt but leaves have yet to develop on the trees. Aspen catkins hang on the branch of male trees offering up the promise though. Crocuses shine in manicured beds with few daffodils and no tulips quite yet. Snow still dominates the landscape as you leave the valley. And while the end of April brought snow to the valley floor, the animals are on the move and Spring whispers softly, yet delightfully in Jackson Hole.
April is a month of transition and the slower pace gives town a wonderfully sleepy feel. Many locals are traveling and my getaway time was spent in Oahu, HI. Those who stayed have enjoyed road biking, a great option as roadways and bike paths melt, and skiing, when the temps are right — with cold nights freezing the snow pack and morning sunshine softening the top layer enough to allow for carve-able turns. If it’s too cold, the snow is frozen solid and if it’s too warm, the snow turns to mush. Hiking trails are still snow-covered and must be cleared of downed trees to ease access. Winter wildlife closure areas open on May 1, so we’ll have access to those areas that have been closed for wildlife protection.
The iconic Grizzly 399 has emerged from her den with her two cubs. She has emerged early this year so if anyone has any thoughts as to why, please let me know! Generally, the males and females without cubs emerge first, and 399 isn’t seen until May.
Grizzly 399 is a truly beloved bear. Born in 1996, she is currently 23 years old. She is an amazing mother of 16 cubs and grandcubs. Her cubs are two years old now, so she’ll be leaving them this spring. She has taught her young how to seek safety from the male grizzlies by staying closer to human activity. Will she mate again? Hard to say due to her age.
While visiting Oahu this month, I heard about Honey Girl, a mature female monk seal, who is another iconic mother. She is followed and revered on the island of Oahu. She is believed to be born in 1997 or earlier. She has been caught in fish hooks a couple of times and survived. Once she was found starving due to a hook. After surgery to remove part of her tongue, she began to eat, was released and continues to thrive. She has given birth to 10 pups and three since her surgery. She has a strong will to live, big heart, and the love of the people of Hawaii. Read more »
Seeing our impact on the Earth and its inhabitants is essential for species survival. I feel that all beings deserve a safe life away from harm. Monk seals get caught in hooks used to catch ulua, giant kingfish. Honey Girl has lost her pups to drowning by hooks. I saw a ten-year-old turtle washed on the northern beach of Oahu, HI that drowned due to fishing line. I talked to the NOAA personal who came to take the turtle away. Only 1% of turtles make it to the age of 10 when they are drawn to the shore to mate. This death is sad and tragic. Grizzly 399 lost Snowy her cub to a hit and run in 2016. People witnessed as she pulled the cub from the road to morn.
As mammals, we all have beating hearts, and more advanced species have emotions and feelings. Both Honey Girl and Grizzly 399 can feel and suffer. I hope as human beings, the most advanced species, we see our role and make decisions to protect those that cannot speak for themselves.
What’s in the woods
4/1: no fooling around with the wolves seen in a mating ritual near the entrance to Grand Teton Park
4/2- town of Jackson, near Snow King- two great grey owls calling in the middle of the night
4/3- cloudy and rainy
4/4- more snow melting in town but still solid snowpack in most of valley, at least 1 ft. deep
4/5-Highway 22- numerous redtail hawks on power poles, fence posts
4/7-Wenzel Lane, Wilson, WY-turkey vulture
4/7-Geese on Osprey nests on Highway 390 at junction and Hwy 22 towards Wilson
4/7- last day of skiing JHMR- cold, windy and overcast. Rain in forecast/snow in mountains
4/9- drive to Salt Lake City- sandhill cranes, white pelicans, osprey, mule deer
4/27- drive back from Salt Lake City- nesting osprey, one sandhill crane, bald eagle, golden eagle, raven, magpies, meadowlark, redtail hawks, ferruginous hawk
4/29- Jackson, WY- buttercups growing along the bike path
4/30- fresh snow in the Jackson valley
Play outside as spring conditions allow but also drive to go look for the bears. May is the time to drive north in Grand Teton Park to see wildlife. Since we have so much snow, wildlife can easily be seen near the roads. Bears look for Spring plants, grubs and winter kill. They are often seen near Pilgrim Creek, Oxbow Bend, Willow Flats so north in Grand Teton.
Trails will open as temperatures warm but current snow limits access. Fun weekend events in May with the Elk Antler Auction and Old West Days. Since winter closures end on May 1, you can head to the hills outside of the Parks to see if you can find antlers. Male members of the deer family have antlers and drop them during the winter months. On May 18, the Auction occurs on the Jackson Town Square and it’s a fun event to check out. https://www.jacksonholechamber.com/events-calendar/elkfest-antler-sale-scouts-antler-auction/ Lots going on in Jackson Hole as summer touring season begins.