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Local guide, naturalist, hiking expert and owner of the Hole Hiking Experience, Cathy Shill, shares some updates on area wildlife activity, nature news and a suggested spring hiking tour:
Snow has melted near town exposing the brown landscape of early spring. If you look closely, you will see that plants have started to “green up” producing shoots, which is a welcome food for all herbivores. Jackson Hole temperatures have reached the low sixties. By the end of the month, overall snow accumulation is 360 inches. These next two months can be quite wet so reaching average-400 inches of snow is quite probable.
March 19 was the spring equinox so night and day are of equal length. Light spurs change. Increased daylight causes hormonal changes in animals, in plants, and I am sure in us. Underneath the snowpack, small rodents are becoming territorial as they prepare for mating season. Plants have swollen terminal buds. Aspen trees have started to produce male catkins. Look for changes south in the valley where it is warmer, lower in latitude and elevation.
With the melting snow, animals are starting to move. The number of elk on the National Elk Refuge varies each day as they begin to travel north. They seem to dance with the weather and science has proven they can detect changes in barometric pressure. Spring storms bring them back lower in elevation. Moose can be found browsing on Antelope Bitterbrush near the airport and the town of Kelly. Bears have been seen and more will emerge from winter dens each day.
Spring weather can be unpredictable; sunny one day and wet, snowy the next. Spring storms can stress herbivores. Plant eaters- moose, elk, deer, bison, big horn sheep- are at their leanest in March. They have just survived about five months without a consistent nourishing food source. Since most plants are dormant in the winter, they are not photosynthesizing so not producing food. Spring storms can be quite stressful as the animals try to move through wet, heavy snow.
The call of the red-wing blackbird, the brilliant blue of the mountain bluebird and the trill of the meadowlark brighten the month. Town is beginning to quiet. There is one more week of ski season at the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. Here’s to the joy of spring!
What’s in the woods:
- 3/4-Huckleberry Hot Springs- two cow moose, muskrat
- 3/4-highway 89/191- bald eagle, numerous moose north of town
- 3/6-red tail hawk flying over town
- 3/7-sunny, spring-like day
- 3/9-robins return to the valley
- 3/13-kestral seem south of town
- 3/15-mountain bluebirds return!
- 3/16-week of rain/snow mix
- 3/21-high school butte- one mature, two immature bald eagles playing on thermals
- 3/22-Teton village road- two moose
- 3/23-early morning- coyotes yipping
- 3/24-rafter J- mature bald eagle in cottonwood tree
- 3/25-grand Teton park- seven moose near airport
- 3/28-snake river- two Trompeter swans, mature bald eagle
- 3/29-male catkins on Aspen trees south of town
- 3/30-south park- meadowlark, juncos, bluebird, red tail hawk
Corn snow! If temperatures freeze at night, the snow consolidates so you can stay on top until the sun melts it once again. Early morning excursions are a must. Skate or cross-country skiing in Grand Teton Park are a blast. Just park at the Taggert Lake trailhead and off you go. If you head east, you will come to the Snake River which is always a nice place to explore. Mud season has begun so walking on bike paths is a nice option. They traverse the valley. One of my favorites is to park south of town, near Melody Ranch on Highway 89/191 and walk south towards the river. Have fun! Experience nature! Join us to make the most of your Jackson Hole visit! Our tours are educational, inspirational, and fun for all ages. Call Jackson Hole Central Reservations at 888-838-6606 to book a guided nature tour with the Hole Hiking Experience.
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