Wildlife Research and Protection: A Sampling of Current Foundation-funded Efforts
Part of one of the world’s largest intact temperate ecosystems, Grand Teton National Park is home to a set of predator-prey systems that have remained largely unchanged for thousands of years. To preserve those unique relationships, park biologists utilize Foundation support to perform long and short-term research studies on a variety of species and biological trends. Research findings influence management decisions and conservation plans, with the ultimate goal of preserving Grand Teton’s magnificent wildlife for the enjoyment of future generations.
Study: WolvesBack To Top
Informing Conservation Strategies: What Delisting Means for Grand Teton’s Wolves
In 2012, the gray wolf was removed from the federal endangered species list and classified as a trophy game animal in northwest Wyoming, where annual fall wolf hunting now occurs (outside of national park boundaries). Although it is illegal to hunt wolves in Grand Teton, wolves that den there regularly cross park boundaries into state hunting territory. Because of the sensitive nature of pack dynamics, hunting losses can have potentially far reaching implications for pack social structure and stability as well as reproductive success. To document these effects and other aspects of wolf biology used to inform future conservation strategies, park biologists perform a variety of strategic research projects, including the tracking of pack movements via GPS radio collars and telemetry flights, ground-based surveys, and other innovative methods that are funded by Foundation donors.
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: Longer Days and Warming Temps — How does wildlife adapt?Back To Top
Warm temperatures in February have led to some interesting behaviors from Grand Teton’s wildlife:
• By late February bull moose have dropped their antlers. To tell the difference between males and females, look for the antler attachment points, called pedicles, on the heads of males or the white fringed area around the tail on females.
• It’s nearing the end of the wolf breeding season. Similar to dogs the gestation period for wolves is 63 days. Females will whelp pups in mid-to-late April, but the pups will not emerge from dens until May.
• Ermine are crust cruising and leaving behind tell-tale signs of their activities — dumbbell shaped tracks zig-zagging across the snows surface and small holes that plunge to the subnivean environment where they find prey.
• A few small groups of bull bison can be seen on native winter ranges. These hardy bison are toughing it out on barren south facing slopes where vegetation is exposed.
• Sage grouse are year-round residents and survive the winter by foraging on sagebrush leaves exposed above the snow. They will begin their courtship at lek sites in late March and April.
• Mule deer that summer in the northern portions of Grand Teton are on their winter ranges in the North and South Forks of the Shoshone River near Cody. Animals, like mule deer, migrate to avoid the harsh winter conditions encountered at higher elevations and to find food which is more accessible at lower elevations where snow cover is reduced.
• On sun-exposed aspects, trees radiate warmth causing the area around the base of the tree to melt out and expose cured vegetation. Resident mule deer are moving from tree well to tree well to take advantage of the available browse.
• As days gradually lengthen, ravens, bald eagles, and great-horned owls — some of the areas earliest nesters — begin courtship activities.
• Pronghorn are poorly adapted to deep snow and the typical extreme winter conditions of Jackson Hole. This winter’s unseasonably warm temperatures have resulted in snow-free conditions at the south end of the valley affording the 55 pronghorn that did not migrate out of the valley a lucky break.
• River otters are active near water bodies all winter using holes in the ice to move between land and water. Otters are well adapted to a life in and out of cold water with thick, protective fur that helps them keep warm. Because of their short legs, webbed feet, and sleek bodies they are strong swimmers.