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Mt. Moran in Grand Teton National Park

Ever seen Mt. Moran?

Mt. Moran rises to 12,610 ft from Jackson Lake in northern Grand Teton National Park (45 minutes north of Jackson, WY). Its top is composed of sandstone, formed over 10 million years ago when this mountain was submersed in an inland salt water lake. As such, it stands in contrast to some of the more jagged peaks surrounding it….Grand Teton (13,776 ft).

It is named after the American frontier landscape artist Thomas Moran. In summer, its glaciers are easily seen along with its Basalt dike. This dike extends vertically and appears to be man-made as it is almost perfectly vertical. In winter, these features are not visible due to snow accumulation.

This mountain is one of the most well-known and frequently requested spots to view on tours with Teton Wild Custom Wildlife Tours in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

#Teton Wild Custom Wildlife Tours  #Jackson, WY Scenic and Wildlife Tours  #Jackson Wyoming Wildlife Tours  #Jackson Wyoming Photography Tours  #Ecotours  #Private Wildlife Tours in Grand Teton National Park

Viewing Pronghorn Antelope in Wyoming

Which are more regularly seen in Wyoming, humans or Pronghorn antelope?

Interestingly, there are quite a few more Pronghorn than people here. A 2018 US Census accounting showed the human population of WY at over 579,000. Pronghorn numbers in WY currently exceed the human population figure, but an official estimate of their numbers has not recently been published.

Pronghorn around Jackson, WY embark on a significant migration from Grand Teton National Park in late fall to an area over 100 miles south and then back again in May/June.

These are the 2nd fastest land animals in North America and can run at 60 mph. However they are not great at jumping a fence. Due to their inability to jump well vertically, they get into fatal trouble around fences. Additionally, they suffer a high mortality rate due to vehicle accidents. As a result, Wyoming DOT has installed “overpasses” along their traditional migration routes to aid these animals in crossing the highway safely. The overpasses have worked!

Come see them in person on a private tour with Teton Wild and witness their beauty along with that of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

#Teton Wild Custom Wildlife Tours #Grand Teton National Park #Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem
#Ecotours #Photography Tours

Visiting Snake River Overlook in Grand Teton National Park

Snake River Overlook is one of the most frequently requested stops on our tours. It’s one of the most scenic views in Grand Teton National Park and its popularity amongst visitors has been boosted by photographs by the renowned photographer Ansel Adams. From this vantage point, one can see both the Snake River Valley and Grand Teton Range.

Weather permitting, Teton Wild, LLC makes it a point to stop at this spectacular view.
There, we discuss with patrons the magnificent scenery, geology and abundant wildlife that call this region home.

www.tetonwild.com
#Grand Teton National Park #Jackson Hole Wildlife Tours #Snake River Overlook #Scenic and Wildlife Tours #Ecotours #Teton Wild

About Teton Wild Custom Wildlife Tours

Teton Wild,LLC is a scenic and wildlife tour company in Jackson Hole, WY specializing in private, vehicle-based tours in Grand Teton National Park, Yellowstone National Park and the spectacular scenery of The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.
Tours focus on the abundant wildlife species which exist here (moose, elk, bison, bighorn sheep, pronghorn antelope, whitetail/mule deer, bears, wolves, eagles and many others) along with geology, botany and history.
All tours are performed in 6 passenger SUVs providing ample opportunity for scenic/wildlife viewing and photography.
Park entry fee, drinks, snacks and optics are provided.

Is this guy sticking his tongue out at you?

Actually, this Bighorn is “phlemming” …..ie, he’s smelling the air with his nostrils and tongue searching for a female in estrus.

Much like all members of the deer family, (elk, moose, whitetail, muleys) sheep do the same thing during their yearly mating ritual.Beginning in early October, there will be a small herd of about 200  sheep assembled here (just outside of Jackson) for the winter months.

Here sheep will mate in December.  At that time, rams become aggressive towards each other and often violently charge their rivals to establish breeding rights.  Their head-to-head collisions can be heard clearly.

A few months afterward, the ewes will give birth to the next generation and then all will migrate a few miles north of Jackson to higher elevations and remain there for the summer.

Some of the “kids”, as newborn sheep and goats are referred to, will be born here.  Other kids are born on the way to Sheep Mountain and will not be seen here until the following fall.  The kids are fun to watch and are amazingly nimble when traversing rocky cliffs…even at such a young age!

Anyone seen a cross fox lately?

Anyone seen a cross fox lately?

The cross fox is a variant of the red fox which exists here in WY.  It is called a “cross” because of the black stripe running down the spine of its back which intersects another black stripe across its shoulders, thus forming a cross shape.  This fox is partially melanistic.  Fully melanistic animals are totally black in color…the opposite of albinism.

Cross foxes are somewhat common in the northwestern US.  Once abundant in ID and UT, their numbers have been significantly reduced due to the uniqueness of their fur pattern.

In comparison to the red/silver fox, cross foxes can be significantly larger.  They can weigh up to 30 lbs, as opposed to the red/siver fox average weight of about 15 lbs. The accompanying photo taken near the Gros Ventre River (10 miles north of Jackson) 2 months ago ( taken by my friend Stephen Fetters of Nature’s Corner Photography, www.naturescornerphotography.com ) illustrates the cross pattern and potential size difference between the two.  This size difference is due to age, diet and genetics. Cross foxes are not a cross breed between other canine species such as coyotes or gray wolves.   They are simply a larger specimen of the red fox.

Life of a fox.

All foxes live on rodents and larger animal carcasses year round.  Some of these carcasses are recent or leftover coyote/wolf kills.  Others are the result of a wild animal’s naturally-occuring fate.  Foxes will feed on a deer, moose, elk or bison carcass, if there is not a larger canine nearby.  In warmer months, foxes also consume insects, salmonids, non-predatory fowl and plant life.

Cross/red/silver foxes, as well as coyotes and gray wolves, all mate in February and have their litters in April.  At birth, fox kits are blind and weigh less than 1 lb.  They will be nursed in the den by the mother for several weeks.  Then, they will graduate to solid food provided by the father…primarily meat from a carcass or rodents dad catches.  By late spring, the kits will be able to leave the den and travel with the parents, but only under close supervision.  By fall, the kits will be grown and able to support themselves. They can then be on their own to seek out new territory and a mate, away from mom and dad.

So what does the future hold for this beautiful fox?

Cross foxes are not “legally” protected.  However, I believe they should be “morally” protected. They are  exquisite creatures that exist only to fulfill their role as secondary predators/scavengers in nature.  They will thrive as long as nature/man allows.

Come see these beautiful animals!  Please follow us on Twitter @Teton1Wild .

Mark Bolen

Teton Wild

www.tetonwild.com

 

moose in wy

What are moose in WY doing right now?

Starting in January, mature bull moose undergo a hormonal change which tells their bodies to shed the previous year’s antler growth. Once this process begins, it will only be a few weeks before the bulls begin to grow new antlers. In a bull’s situation, the older (larger racks) fall 1st, then the younger/smaller ones.

In January, something drops!

Speciflcally, bulls drop their antlers from their foreheads. This area is  on the bull’s upper skull. It’s called the “pedicle”, an area above and behind the eye. Once the antlers have shed, the pedicle will cover with fur and soon begin to bulge with new antler growth. This growth process will continue until September, when the antler is fully grown. Antler size depends upon a bull’s age, genetics and food quality. Cow moose do not grow antlers.

As a member of the deer family, bull moose antlers are covered during growth by a layer of “velvet” which wraps the growing antlers in a protective “fuzzy” covering which allows blood and nutrients to promote antler development.

Now, check out this guy in August. moose in wy

This, and similar bull moose will lose the velvet, formerly covering their antlers, and will soon be ready to go head-to-head with other males for mating privileges in September.

Generally speaking, moose are solitary animals that do not travel in herds. In warm months, moose will feed on aquatic vegetation and can dive 20 ft below a water surface to reach that food. Year-round, moose are also twig eaters. Interestingly, moose have no upper molars. They are able to crush woody twigs with their lower teeth and upper palate. A moose ruminates food for a few hours, usually when laying down, and then fully digests the food intake and soon passes food.

In winter, bulls tend to congregate together. Not in herd formation, only a few may be seen close to one another. Moose cows do not socialize much, and will most often be seen only with their own calf/calves. A mature bull may weigh 1,200 lbs and can jump a 4’ fence on the run…..in 4 feet of snow. I’ve witnessed it !!!
A cow may have 2 calves each year…..same birthday. Each calf will weigh 35 lbs when they hit the ground!

Come and see the new generation of moose !!
Mark Bolen
Teton Wild. www.tetonwild.com
770/686-1652

Wolves! Voracious Predator or Vital Partner?

Are wolves voracious, evil predators, or are they a vital part of our ecosystem? The answer depends on who you ask.

Ranchers and farmers detest wolves. They see them as responsible for the destruction of livestock. There is no doubt there is wolf predation. A Montana study showed a loss of 500 sheep to wolves in 2003, while coyotes killed over 11,000. When disease, weather, eagles, bears, and foxes are added to the mix, documented livestock losses to wolves account for less than 1%. Yet wolves arouse almost violent feelings of anger in some.

Why? One reason is we are socialized from an early age to believe wolves are evil. Think about Red Riding Hood, the Three Little Pigs, the “wolves at the door”.

Ask wildlife scientists and conservationists, and you will get an entirely different answer. They see wolves as a vital part of a balanced ecosystem. One the best examples of this is the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

An Ecosystem in Decline

The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) is a huge swath of land covering more than 20 million acres. It includes Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National Park, plus adjacent parts of Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho. 

Wolves were eliminated from this area in the mid 1920’s. Their disappearance removed the major factor controlling the elk population. As a result, the elk population exploded. By the mid 1960’s, oversized elk herds were hanging out in the river and stream beds. They were grazing the young willow, cottonwood, and aspen trees down to the ground. Without young trees to replenish them, the forests began to decline. Beaver disappeared from the valley.

The coyote population also boomed. While coyotes will feed on dead elk, they don’t hunt them. Their natural diet is small ground mammals such as ground squirrels, moles, chipmunks, etc. As the ground mammals disappeared, other predators such as foxes, hawks, and eagles declined sharply.

A Solution for Re-balance 

Conservationists saw the reintroduction of the Gray Wolf as the solution to rebalance the ecosystem. Farmers and ranchers were vehemently opposed.

Finally, the Federal Government forged a compromise. In January of 1995 and January of 1996 a total of 66 Canadian Grey Wolves were released in Yellowstone National Park and adjacent Idaho.

These are truly gorgeous animals. Gray wolves are large. Males are 5 to 6.5 feet long, 26 to 32 inches at the shoulder and weigh 70 to 115 pounds. Females are slightly smaller. Wolves reach adult size in about a year from birth.

They can live up to 13 yrs. in the wild. Right now, wolves are fighting for pack hierarchy and territorial boundaries. Come mid-February, the alphas will mate and assure their legacy.

Their coats range in color from stark white to pitch black. Most wolves are a golden or tawny brown color with streaks of white or black. The interesting thing about the black wolves is they possess a gene called the K- locus that causes the solid black color. DNA studies have shown this gene came from cross-breeding with domestic dogs thousands of years ago.

They have intelligent-looking faces. Their eyes are blue when born. At about 8 weeks of age, the color changes to yellow, amber, orange, or even brown.

Wolves have a tight social structure. They run in packs that average from 4 to 8, but can number as high as 30. They are run by an Alpha male. His mate is the Beta female. There is a strict hierarchy to the pack with each member filling an important function. Once pups grow into adults, they are dispersed from their parents’ packs. They then pair off with other dispersed wolves and form their own packs.

In the GYE, wolves feed on Elk, Moose, Bison and Deer. They may also eat nuts, berries, and small mammals. An individual wolf needs to eat an average of 3.7 pounds of meat per day for minimum survival. Wolves may not eat for week, and then gorge themselves on 20 pounds of meat from a kill. Two Yellowstone studies estimated their diet consisted of around 80% elk. 

Was Re-balance Achieved?

As one of the top predators in the GYE, the Gray Wolves made their presence known very quickly. A little more than two years later, half the coyotes were either killed or driven out. With the coyotes gone, small mammal populations began to rise. This allowed the return of other predators such as foxes and hawks.

The greatest effect was on the elk herds. Now hunted by the wolves, the elk were forced to keep moving. They were no longer able to linger long enough to completely destroy the young cottonwood and aspen trees. By 2006 the elk population was cut in half. This sounds harsh, but the reduced population is in balance with what the land can sustain.

In addition, when wolves kill elk, other predators such as coyotes, foxes, eagles, and ravens feed on the carcasses as well. This helps sustain their populations and smooth out the boom and bust population shifts.

As the forests began to regenerate, the beaver returned.

Today, some 20-odd years after the reintroduction of the Gray Wolf the populations have indeed grown. As of December 31, 2015, there were at least 1,704 wolves in 282 packs (including 95 breeding pairs) in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming. Ongoing studies show the positive effects wolves are having on Yellowstone, Grand Teton National Park, and the GYE.

Come and witness these magnificent mammals. Click below to make your reservation.

Mark Bolen

www.tetonwild.com

Do bears actually hibernate?

Yes and no.

Bears here in WY (black and grizzly) do take a nap, which is generally termed hibernation.  However, they actually go into a much more lethargic physical state of “hyperphagia”, during which time their heart and breathing rates decrease, while their blood-nitrogen level increases.

Over the previous summer, bears have been told by Mother Nature to eat everything they can to build up fat reserves to live on during the winter.  While in their den, they sleep but do not eat, drink, defecate or urinate.  Their bodies simply slow down.  Yet, sows still nurse their young cubs through this time.

Depending on their physical health, sow bears will have 1-3 cubs in winter, months after mating the previous spring.  Unbelievably, their bodies tell them well before giving birth how many cubs they are fit to support !!

This is a  biological happening  known as “delayed implantation”. The sow’s body lets her know how many “fertilized eggs” to implant, based upon her physical fitness.  Sows mate in spring, thus the term delayed implantation.  Once her body and mind agree, the sow will give birth from January to February.

Each year sows with no cubs emerge from the den in March, then those with one-year olds, then those with recently-born cubs.  All are out of the den by late April.

Beware sows!!  Boars will make your cubs disappear  to drive you back into estrus!!

At the time of their emergence from the den, bears are very hungry. They feed on pretty much anything….grass, carcasses, winter-kill fish, rodents and newly birthed ungulates (deer, elk, moose). Later in the year, their diet will change to live fish, cutworm moths, berries.

Bears are not herd/pack animals, but individuals will take over a wolf kill and bison/elk carcasses left behind by hunters.

Mark  Bolen
Teton Wild
770/686-1652
www.tetonwild.com

More pronghorns than people in Wyoming

While pronghorn are the fastest running mammals in the Lower 48 States at 60 mph, they just can’t jump a fence!  Their forelegs are configured such that they will not  even consider such a jump.   Born to run, they are often referred to as “speed goats”.

Since they cannot jump, pronghorn choose to crawl under fences.  Thus, their 150 mile migration from Grand Teton National Park to the southerly Green River Range in WY used to be quite risky.  Along this route, pronghorns used to suffer many fatal collisions with vehicles.  Pronghorns cross roads at the easies place for them to get under a fence, which has led them to peril.

Nowadays, there are man-made 3-rail wooden fences that funnel pronghorn to overpasses. This allows them to safely cross above a road.  These overpasses span 4-lane highways and are over 100 yds long and 50 yds wide.  Studies show they work well to reduce vehicle accidents with both deer and pronghorn.

Today, the pronghorn population exceeds that of humans (580k) in WY.