Jackson Hole Wildlife
Oh Give Me a Jackson Hole Home, Where the Elk Roam
And the mule deer and the antelope play. When you buy a home in Jackson Hole, you’re living in some of the most densely wildlife populated areas in the nation. Jackson Hole is smack dab in the middle of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, the largest intact temperate ecosystem in the continental U.S. The ecosystem includes 18 million acres of government protected wildlife habitat, national forest, and national park land. Not only does the government protect the area, but also Jackson Hole residents are serious about conversation too and make it a top priority in their communities.
And who can blame them? Nine mountain ranges including the Teton, Gros Ventre, Wyoming, Snake, Salt River, Big Hole, Wind River, Madison, and Absarokas, along with countless lakes, rivers, and streams host wildlife of every sort. Every season brings a new wildlife adventure to witness and it’s a great honor to watch some of these fascinating animals in action.
Wildlife is certainly an adventure so you need a plan. Winter is the best time to see the larger animals in their prime. Unless you’re looking for bears. In that case, you’ll have to wait until spring because they’re hibernating. Winter weather forces elk, moose, and the like to migrate to lower elevations of the mountains for grazing. With the tree leaves long gone, they are easier to spot against the snow and it doesn’t hurt that the lower elevation, thus closer to the communities, gives the animals less ground to roam. But keep in mind that winter is harsh and it can be cruel for those animals competing for food. Ruthless mountain lions and wolves can mean the end for those animals that become weak during the bitter cold season. In late winter, the wolves, coyotes, bald eagles, owls, and ravens mate and offer some extremely fascinating, if not mildly amusing, behaviors to watch.
If you prefer to view wildlife without the help of snowshoes, then summer won’t disappoint. Once the snow blanket has begun to melt, the color of green emerges and with it comes wildflowers, birds, and the smaller animals out for their warm weather frolics. With such a short window of summer opportunity, it seems these animals take double advantage of the season. Jackson Hole is for the birds. And birdwatchers. There are over 300 species to be on the look out for and you’ll find a rare or significant one in every corner of the valley. To keep up, grab a copy of the Jackson Hole News to see which birds have been spotted recently.
No look at Jackson Hole wildlife would be complete without mentioning the National Elk Refuge. From October through May, an average of 7,500 elk roam to the north side of Jackson, Wyoming where the National Elk Refuge becomes their winter residence. But elk aren’t the only ones drawn to the 25,000-acre refuge a few miles from the town of Jackson. 47 varieties of mammals and 175 species of birds also make a pilgrimage to the refuge. During the summer months, 50% of the elk return to Grand Teton National Park, while the other half divides between Bridger-Teton National Forest and the southern portion of Yellowstone National Park.