Old Man Winter has his grip on Jackson Hole as we reach the middle of the season. Recent storms produced lots of fresh powder to play in and the few sunny days brought frigid Arctic air from the north with highs in the single digits. This is great news for snow enthusiasts, but when it’s this cold and snowy outside, you can’t help but consider the wildlife.
Wild Animals Struggle to Survive Winter
Winter is the season that favors predators as wildlife continue to weaken from harsh elements including deepening snow, cold temperatures, low solar radiation and strong winds. In simple terms, animals have three strategies to survive the winter: hibernate, migrate or tolerate. Bears, marmots, squirrels and chipmunks all hibernate while many birds and pronghorn antelope migrate out of the valley to find more friendly conditions. Bison, moose, elk and deer, however, tolerate the winter here with subtle migration patterns that keep them nearby.
Antler Shed Hunting
During the winter months, male members of the deer family (moose, elk and deer) drop, or shed, their antlers. Moose drop their antlers first, in December and January, while most deer and elk drop theirs by March. Hunting and gathering antlers is a favorite spring pastime that actually can be lucrative. Antlers can sell for over $17 per pound. Our state representatives are trying to give local residents precedence with an early start to the shed hunt. A bill is currently being proposed to make this into a law.
“It is the life of the crystal, the architect of the flake, the fire of the frost, the soul of the sunbeam. This crisp winter air is full of it.”
- When heading into the backcountry, check the avalanche forecast as conditions may be dangerous: bridgertetonavalanchecenter.org/forecasts/#/all
- Bring proper gear for your outing and tell someone where you are going
- Bring warm beverages and extra food on extremely cold days
- Be extra vigilant to minimize wildlife disturbance
- There are currently 6,000 elk on the National Elk Refuge and supplemental feeding has yet to begin
- Ravens will court at this time of the year — look for pairs preening and playing together
- Mating season begins for coyotes, wolves and fox
When it is sunny and calm, consider exploring the northern reaches of Jackson Hole. Skiing at Turpin Meadows in the Buffalo Fork drainage offers a great chance for wildlife viewing and stunning vistas. Touring along Jackson Lake is spectacular — access near Signal Mountain or Colter Bay. If you want more rolling terrain, consider the Two Ocean/Emma Matilda area near Pacific Creek. Have fun and enjoy the beauty and serenity during the heart of winter.
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Join us for naturalist-guided hiking, wildlife tours, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing in Jackson Hole and Grand Teton National Park.