Wildlife Research and Protection: A Sampling of Current Foundation-funded Efforts
Study: WolvesBack To Top
Informing Conservation Strategies: What Delisting Means for Grand Teton’s Wolves
Wolves were absent from Grand Teton National Park from the 1930s to 1998, when a breeding pair originating from animals introduced to Yellowstone National Park denned and produced pups in Grand Teton – the first wolves to den in Jackson Hole in almost 70 years. Today, about 50 wolves in 5 or 6 packs roam the area. This recolonization of park landscapes by a top predator provided an unprecedented opportunity for ecological research, as the balance of native predator-prey systems was gradually restored. Foundation donors help support wolf research and monitoring, including the tracking of pack movements via GPS radio collars, telemetry flights, and ground-based surveys to identify and protect den sites, track recovery of the population, and conduct a variety of studies. The information obtained is critical for ongoing, dynamic conservation programs designed to ensure that wolves remain part of the park’s robust ecological system, to be enjoyed by current and future generations of visitors.
Study: Bighorn SheepBack To Top
Mitigating New Threats to Bighorn Sheep
In 1969, mountain goats were introduced in Idaho and have since expanded into Grand Teton. They now threaten Teton Range bighorn sheep, a native herd whose protection is one of Wyoming’s and the park’s highest conservation priorities. If left unchecked, a robust population of invasive mountain goats could rapidly transform Teton flora and fauna forever. Park staff is initiating new research and monitoring to implement goat management strategies to protect native bighorn sheep and ecosystem function.
Wildlife BrigadeBack To Top
Training Volunteers Who Make Grand Teton Safer for All
Tasked with facilitating safe interactions between visitors and animals, Grand Teton’s Wildlife Brigade members are part ambassadors, part compliance officers. This valuable group of volunteers manages roadside “wildlife jams,” patrols picnic areas for unsecured food, and shares educational information with visitors. By funding resources for topnotch volunteer training and everyday equipment needs, the Foundation ensures the Brigade’s effective operation year after year.
Migration ResearchBack To Top
Identifying Crucial Migration Corridors
Building on the success of their discovery of the famous Path-of-the-Pronghorn, park biologists have continued by studying red-tailed hawks, osprey, bald eagles, moose, elk, bison, and bighorn sheep movements. Current research is focused on a mule deer herd that is believed to migrate west to Idaho in order to provide land and wildlife managers with information critical to species’ long-term conservation.
Bear Box ProgramBack To Top
Bear Boxes: Keeping Bears Wild and Visitors Safe
Each summer, Grand Teton’s 1,000 frontcountry campsites fill with visitors from near and far. With the grizzly bear population increasing in the park, it is more important than ever for campers to properly store food and toiletries. Bear-resistant food storage lockers, or bear boxes, are high-quality metal enclosures, spacious enough to fit your largest ice chest. People can open them with ease, yet bears cannot, making these boxes an incredibly effective tool that keeps bears from associating humans as a means to access food.
By funding a bear box, you can help the park succeed in outfitting each of its drive-up, frontcountry camping and picnic sites with these durable lockers. They also make great gifts! Recognize your friends, colleagues, or family members in a unique way by dedicating a box in their honor. We’ll send your gift recipient a teddy bear along with information regarding the importance of bear boxes and the location of yours. Plaque recognition is available.
You can fund an entire bear box with recognition for $1,500, or partially fund a box with a gift amount of your choice. Support this program today.
Fisheries ResearchBack To Top
Protecting Native Cutthroat Trout and Stream Habitat
Grand Teton’s pristine waterways contain vital habitat for the only native trout species in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem — the Yellowstone and Snake River Cutthroat Trout. These native fish are subject to many stressors including culverts and other impediments to fish passage, competition with non-native trout, and warming stream temperatures. Support for fisheries research will focus on understanding non-native trout populations in Kelly Warm Springs, Ditch Creek, and the Snake River in an effort to protect native fish habitat and assure future health of the park’s aquatic ecosystems and associated recreation opportunities. Studies of water flow, water temperatures, and non-native fish identification and movement will be coordinated by a staff aquatic resources specialist to determine threats posed by non-native fish present in the waterways of Grand Teton.
Wildlife Whereabouts: Summer is FULL of Animal ActivityBack To Top
• Wolf pups from successfully reproducing packs have now emerged from their dens. They do not stray too far from their dens, rendezvous sites, or the watchful eye of adults. They are out and about, learning from the new world around them while playing and growing rapidly.
• Trumpeter swan eggs are hatching. Young swans, or cygnets, are typically light gray in color and can swim within 24 hours of hatching. They will be roughly three and a half to four months old before they take their first flight.
• The spring birth pulse for Jackson Hole ungulates (mammals with hooves) is winding down. Most ungulate babies are on their feet and able to move the day they are born. Some, like bison, use the follower strategy, where the new calves stay with their mothers at all times. Others, like deer, elk, and pronghorn, use the hider strategy, where mothers often hide their newborn fawns or calves and return to them periodically to nurse.
• Moose are VERY protective of their young. Please be cautious and give them a wide berth.
• Marmots, one of the largest mammals in the squirrel family, are active and feeding primarily in the morning and evening and rest during the heat of the day.
• Neotropical birds, such as ruby crowned kinglets, western tanagers, and hummingbirds, have returned and are busy breeding and raising young.
• Grizzly bear 610 emerged from her den in April with her two yearlings. If you are lucky enough to see them, please give them the space they deserve so that others can also enjoy their presence. Park regulations require that visitors stay 100 yards or further away from bears and wolves.
• Grizzly bear 399 is 20 years old and emerged with one cub-of-the-year this spring. Tragically, her cub was killed in a collision with a vehicle the evening of June 19th. Since the driver did not stop or report the event, there is no additional information about how it occurred. This is a good reminder for all of us to drive slowly and be vigilant for wildlife at all times, particularly after dark. There is a chance that 399 could breed this summer as a result of losing this cub and emerge next year with one or more cubs. Otherwise she would be expected to breed next spring and start a new reproductive cycle.
• Mosquitoes are now out in force (but vary in abundance across the landscape), providing food to birds, bats, fish, and other species.
• This year’s abundant spring rains have resulted in tremendous vegetation growth, particularly among grasses and forbs, which will benefit many species of wildlife.
• As daily high temperatures rise with the season, mid-day wildlife activity will be reduced considerably.
• Spring spawning has been observed among Utah suckers at Emma Matilda Lake, Heron Pond, and Jackson Lake, with pelicans taking advantage of associated feeding opportunities at some sites. More spawning congregations will occur in other park lakes in the coming weeks.
• Cutthroat spawning in the Jackson Lake area appeared to be earlier than average with lower than average number of fish observed. The earlier run time is likely attributable to an early runoff.