wildlife research and protection
Free-roaming wildlife is the main reason people visit Grand Teton. The
Foundation provides funding that helps biologists gather science-based information and create conservation plans, preserving Grand Teton's magnificent species
and unparalleled wildlife viewing for the enjoyment of millions of people each year.
Managing Grand Teton’s dynamic environment can be complicated as the park delicately balances
increased visitation and encroaching development with habitat and species protection. The long-term well-being of wildlife
populations requires a robust and carefully targeted conservation strategy as well as public education programs.
Research and education efforts have been greatly enhanced by gifts from the private sector and are an ideal way
for visitors to participate in park stewardship.
Carnivore Research with Wolves, Bears, and Cougars
Park biologists are collaborating with scientists from other ecosystem agencies on a predator study that examines wolf,
grizzly and black bear, and cougar interactions in the park and surrounding areas of Jackson Hole. Immigration and reintroduction of
species have put North America’s premier predators in the same habitat here for the first time in decades. Predatory competition can affect a
variety of other wildlife and land management issues and determines when predators hunt, what they kill, how often they eat, where they live, and
whether their young survive. Data will help Grand Teton and other land and wildlife managers better understand the
complicated relationship that exists among large carnivores, their prey, and a variety of human interests.
Wolf Research and Monitoring
In 1999, the Teton wolf pack produced Jackson’s first wolf litter in over 70 years and favorable conditions have
fostered their continued growth. Biologists are tracking pack formation, range, den locations, productivity,
and habitat use to determine how this long absent predator is recovering and reshaping the ecosystem dynamics.
Foundation funding provides equipment such as radio tracking collars, telemetry equipment, and monitoring
flights that would otherwise be in short supply.
Greater Sage Grouse Monitoring and Recovery
The population of greater sage grouse throughout the West has declined significantly over the last decade, and the birds have been acknowledged by US Fish and Wildlife Service as a species in need of help. Research will determine if the lower numbers are related to an increase in avian or mammalian predators, fragmentation or loss of quality wintering habitats, or other factors that are currently unknown. The park participates in the Jackson Hole Sage Grouse Working Group, one of several sage grouse groups around the state, to gather information necessary to create conservation and recovery plans.
Wildlife Brigade Volunteer Program
With increased visitation to the park and healthy populations of elk, moose, wolves, and bears, wildlife and human interactions are becoming increasingly complex.
To assist with this interface challenge, Grand Teton National Park manages a successful Volunteers-in-the-Park (VIP) program that assists
with protecting guests and animals by promoting ethical wildlife viewing and food storage practices. While one of the main purposes of the volunteers
is to manage crowds during wildlife jams along the roadside, they also assist in educating visitors about food storage and the prevention of food
conditioning of bears.
Pika Habitat and Climate Change
The pika, a small rabbit-like mammal, could be one of the first animals to experience habitat erosion due to climate change. Pikas can be found in rock-strewn talus slopes at higher elevations and are sensitive to high temperatures, a characteristic that makes them an indicator species for climate change in the western U.S. Park biologists are measuring the effects of climate change on pika distribution throughout the park as part of a larger-scale glacial change study. Results of the work will assist in understanding local effects of global warming and in educating visitors and Jackson Hole residents about these issues.
Many park animals undergo short and long-distance treks outside park boundaries where they are subjected to a variety of threats. Movements of red-tailed hawks, bald eagles, pronghorn, moose, elk, bison, bighorn sheep, and wolverine have been studied in Grand Teton, providing land and wildlife managers with information critical to the long-term conservation of the park’s wildlife. Biologists will build upon this knowledge base by studying the migrations of additional key species, including osprey and western-migrating mule deer from the Tetons’ highest elevations. Migration studies help identify threats to the park’s wildlife outside its boundaries and showcase the link between protecting migrations and conserving biodiversity.
In collaboration with the Wildlife Conservation Society and several other federal and state agencies, the park is testing new noninvasive methodology to evaluate the population status of the elusive wolverine. Scientists believe it is now possible to identify individual wolverines by photographing them and comparing their chest blaze patterns—white markings that serve as a fingerprint for identifying unique individuals. The work involves establishing a grid of remote camera stations and evaluating how many different wolverines visit the sites. Funds are needed to help purchase equipment and support the field crews that set up and maintain the stations in the most rugged parts of the mountains.
Whitebark Pine Restoration
A considerable number of whitebark pine trees have died as a
result of a recent epidemic of native mountain pine beetle, and the problem has been
exacerbated by climatic warming trends. To win the battle over the white pine blister rust
and pine beetle infestation, the park identified disease-resistant trees and collected
their seeds. Thousands of seeds have been deposited in a U.S. Forest Service plant
nursery in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, and await funds to begin propagation.
The seedlings will grow for 2-3 years. The park will identify two 5-acre sites
where the whitebark pine seedlings will be planted and restored.
Air Quality Monitoring
Visibility, high-elevation lakes and soils, and sensitive species of plants and animals in Grand Teton and the surrounding areas are potentially sensitive to air pollution. Human health can also be affected by ground-level ozone from sources such as car emissions. Currently, ozone is not officially monitored in Jackson Hole; the nearest data comes from Yellowstone National Park. The park is collaborating with several partners to establish and operate a new air quality monitoring station in Grand Teton. The station will collect meteorological data as well as information on ozone and other pollutants.