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: Heading into HibernationBack To Top
- The bighorn sheep rutting period began.
- All hibernating small mammals that were active in October, such as chipmunks, began hibernating.
- Rough-legged hawks, which are often prominent on fence posts and power poles, returned from Arctic nesting grounds for the winter. Migrations of trumpeter and tundra swans brought higher numbers of swans to the valley.
- Most deer and elk will migrations seem to be a little late this year because of the relatively mild weather and low snow levels during November.
- Most pronghorn will have left the Jackson Hole valley, bound for winter ranges south of Pinedale in the Green River Basin. Typically a few remain this time of year on the National Elk Refuge.
- Adult bald eagles with nesting territories in the park remain year-round and will prey on higher numbers of waterfowl, as fish become less available under ice.
- Long-tailed weasels and snowshoe hares have recently turned from their brown summer coats to winter’s white pelage.
- Beaver activity is strongly influenced by ice conditions as they continue to stash willow and other cuttings under the ice for a long winter’s food supply.
- Wolf pups that have been largely confined to den and rendezvous sites since birth are now traveling with the rest of the pack throughout their home ranges, learning to hunt and how to survive in the wild.
Most black bears entered winter dens by the end of October, with most grizzly bears doing the same during the month of November. A small number of grizzly bears that have learned how to put on additional fat during early winter will remain out and about, for as much as another month.