Compared to last year, as Anne Kirkpatrick noted:“Beautiful morning at a balmy 26° compared to last year’s minus 12° temps.”
Photo by Betsy Murphy
“North Leigh Creek was amazing! It was very peaceful out there and it was such a treat when the sun made an appearance.” Kristy Smith
In Wilson it was a “lovely warm day, 22 degrees at 9 am, 30 degrees just after noon. Windy off and on.” – Unattributed
However, there were deep-snow conditions for skiers/snowshoers:
Barb Cassells’ team of four cross-country skied the Gros Ventre campground – “We split up and it took us 3.5 hrs just to cover the campground because we were breaking trail in 4 feet of deep snow…. Slow and arduous going.”
“Off trail the snow, particularly the snow that fell over the past couple of days, was too soft and deep to travel on.” Gene Linn
“…route was pretty heavy slogging through mostly calf-deep snow. It was good that there were four of us as we were able to rotate the trail-breaker role frequently. We’re not sure that a team of two would have been able to make it all the way to the end of the survey zone.” Sue Rope
And it was tough for moose, too:
photo by Betsy Murphy
Loren Nelson:“We have never seen so much snow in the high residential areas of Jackson. The piles were 8-12 feet almost everywhere and I can’t imagine how any wildlife can get around.”
Steve Squalluci who surveyed areas west of the airport: “We saw no Moose! I’m thinking because of the 3 to 5 feet of snow they are staying in the river valleys.”
Where were moose found?
We don’t have the maps yet, but by reviewing the data, here are some general locations:
Few were seen in Jackson, on the buttes, or in the southern subdivisions, but many were in Wilson and the West Bank. They were recorded in some numbers along the bottomlands of the Snake River, the Gros Ventre River, Pacific Creek, and Buffalo Valley – where there is cover and willows/cottonwoods.
photo by Linda Unland
Some got pretty close accidentally:
Matt Fagan reported: “I had just crossed Pacific Creek to the west side and was putting my skis back on. Saw, but did not hear, a moose moving away from me quick and easily into heavy timber, maybe 20 yards or less away. Moose was in a daybed and I spooked it….As I was floundering in the snow, it was impressive how quickly this moose moved. I did not pursue.
Sign/tracks were abundant:
Several people noted tracks and scat of moose and tried to find the moose.
photo by Kathy McCurdy
For instance: at the north end of park: “Moose tracks were visible in the Willow Flats area, south of Jackson Lake Lodge. We did not see that animal.” EcoTours group.
“None actually seen but the fresh tracks of at least three moose were observed, two north of the Emily’s Pond Trail and one just south of R Park near the tunnel.” Susan Marsh
And south along the dike: “One fresh moose bed with poop and hair in it. Tracks leading in multiple directions from bed.” Sue Rope
West side of the Tetons: “We saw quite a few moose tracks. It was difficult to determine if the tracks were from a single moose traversing the road, or from a different moose…. note of tracks when I was quite sure it was a different set of tracks coming from a different direction.
photo by Sue Rope
“We failed to ‘see’ any moose, but one crossed our tracks and left its tracks between the time we skied up South Leigh Canyon and when we returned. So we know there is at least one moose in the canyon.”Fred Johnson
The Fish Creek team finally saw some tracks but no moose up a side road just before the noon deadline. They were driving back down the hill, only to be blocked by a stuck FedEx truck. While the FedEx driver spun his wheels, two surveyors found a cow and calf nestled under a tree. Then the three women (average age 72) dug out the truck’s rear wheels so when a husband came to chain the truck and straighten out its rear, FedEx could continue on its way. Triumphs of the day.
The report by Beverly Boynton who skied the vicinity of Ditch Creek is telling: “No moose, no moose tracks, no moose beds, no moose scat. No other birds or mammals, except heard a chickadee at one point;moderate number of pine marten, squirrel, and mice tracks…. looking at moose size nooks and crannies…trail breaking was ok,… We tried to stay on wind slabs, which was easy enough to do. I wonder if areas that had moose also had less wind slabs, i.e. softer snow?”
photo by Fred Johnson
A third (14 out of 42) of the teams did not find any moose despite hours of careful scouting.
Again to emphasize, “0” moose is great data. Thank you!
Other wildlife sightings on Moose Day are important too: Here are just a few mentioned.
People observed winter regulars: red squirrels, chickadees, cross-bills, mule deer, bald eagles, and white-breasted-nuthatches. Several teams saw elk: SarahDewey and Carson Butler ofGTNP scouted over 100 in Buffalo Valley and south; Bruce and Nancy Pasfield saw elk and mule deer during their “breathtaking” ski around the Snake River Sporting Club; and the Fish Creek team saw several elk among some houses and fields.
Scouts along the Snake River north of the Wilson bridge addeda trumpeter swan, 40 Barrows goldeneyes, 12 mallards, and a belted kingfisher.The Fish Creek team saw 2 dippers, 2 mule deer, and mallards in Fish Creek.The Hosted Moose Day team up Cache Creek had a nice assortment of birds:hairy woodpecker, lots of red crossbills, Townsend’s solitaire, pine siskin, common raven, brown creeper, mountain and black-capped chickadees, red-breasted nuthatch, and dark-eyed junco.
photo by Fred Johnson
Kristy Smith and Josh Holmes up North Leigh Creeklogged 2 Bohemian Waxwings as well as a “pile of feathers from some type of grouse that had an unfortunate encounter with some unknown predator (no wing marks so we figured it was not a raptor).”
East of Kelly, the USFS team on snowmobiles observed5 wolves.
“Our favorite sighting for the day was aromp of ottersfeeding on trout near the oxbow bend. They are always a crowd pleaser! We finished our moose day with tasty moose bread from Dornan’s. Thank you very much!” Laura, Tyler, and Dylan volunteers from Jackson Hole EcoTour Adventures.
Your sightings and keen observations are terrific. If you haven’t added your Moose Day sightings, please do under Casual Observations.
photo by Charlotte Kidd of Kathryn Turner and Larrie Rockwell
“Surprising that the moose are not in Karns Meadow but we have only seen one in the meadow all winter! Maybe next year.” Loren Nelson, neighbor
Reade Dornan reported: “About 60 snowmobiles at the far end of the Gros Ventre Road above Slide Lake…were amassed and about to take off. I could see why the moose are no longer visible up there. They’ve probably receded into the side canyons away from the noise and chaos along the Gros Ventre River. Really upsetting…. We saw almost no birds, not even the ouzel that was ALWAYS available off the Kelly bridge to the TV Ranch, at least in the old days.”
Fred Johnson who skied up South Leigh Creek:“As with last year, due to the very heavy use of this canyon by snowmobiles to provide access to skiing on Beard’s Mountain, … We assume moose and other wildlife prefer to live somewhere with less human activity.”
The Nature Mapping data we all collect helps inform management decisions of our public lands.
Fun meeting people and old friends:
Almost 30 people gathered at the Snake River Brew Pub for lunch. Many of the comments included the fun they had being together and new friends made.
photo by Kate Gersh
“Great to meet folks at the Brew Pub afterwards. It was fun to contribute.” Sue Rope
Hosted Moose Day, a special educational opportunity attracted 15 people who hiked with JH Wildlife Foundation’s Kyle Kyssock and Hilary Turner for 4 miles round trip up Cache Creek to find 2 moose: “We had great camaraderie amongst the group with several visitors traveling from Salt Lake, Rexburg, and Idaho Falls for the sole purpose of participating in Moose Day and other visitors from as far as Florida and New York who came to Moose Day as part of their winter vacation to the area.”
We hadstaff participation from several agencies: Grand Teton Nation Park, U.S. Forest Service, Wyoming Game and Fish Department, and Teton Conservation District. Tour companies also provided volunteers: JH EcoTour Adventures, Buffalo Roam Tours, and Vintage Adventure’s Tipi Camp. Several Teton Regional Land Trust staff scouted the canyons on the west side of the Tetons.
We also greatly appreciatepermission to survey private lands: Snake River Ranch, Astoria Hot Springs, Snake River Sporting Club, the Morgan family; HOA’s of John Dodge, Aspens, Pines, West Gros Ventre Butte, Spring Creek Ranch, JH Golf and Tennis, Teton Science School, Indian Springs, and others. Without their support, we would not survey moose on these private properties.
Total effort is Impressive:
We had a total of 139 volunteers in 42 teams:34 teams on the traditional east-side areas, and 8 teams from Teton Valley on the west side of the Tetons.Total effort added up to: 382.75 hrs:ski = 195.25 hrs; car = 152.5 hrs; walk = 18.75 hrs; snowmobile = 6 hrs.
photo by Morgan Graham
We had ski teams in all corners of the count area persevering through deep-snow conditions. Particularly notable were the teams on the west side of the Tetons who intrepidly skinned, skied, and snowshoed miles up the canyons—all relatively new areas for Moose Day.
Theeffort prize, if we had one, would likely go to JHWF Executive Director Renee Seidler with two partners who booted up from Teton Pass to Glory Bowl, skied down Coal Creek, skinned up Trail creek to Mail Cabin and skied back to the road. They tallied 4,500 feet of elevation gain and loss. Their effort will determine a better outline of the Coal Creek area for future surveys.
Organizational skillswere welcomed: John McMorrow deployed a team of 11 on the Snake River Ranch. Teams of 5-6 were set in motion by Peyton Giffin, Fred Johnson, and AJ DeRosa.
We also acknowledge theteams who meticulously drove up and down the intricatestreets of Jackson and the mazes throughout subdivisions. Fortunately, no moose were seen in Jackson as downtown is not good or safe moose habitat. Areas around Wilson were frequent moose haunts. Moose were generally scattered south of Jackson—so these careful car surveys are important!
photo by Dan Bernstein – top of Glory
And hats off to those who drove by car andscaled snowbanksfor better views.
And for some, Moose Day wasa family outing. Steve Squallucci and his wife were accompanied by their two grandchildren. The Linn family and friends scouted the family compound and adjacent areas by snowshoe and ski.
Long-timersLeith and Barbara Barker carpooled with Reade and Dave Dornan.“The Dornans love these rituals with the Barkers. We love getting out and comparing notes with old friends. We love gossiping and talking about the importance of caring about our wildlife.”
The unofficial count is97-98 moose…maybe 100…Aly Courtemanch and Hilary Turner need to check some possible duplicates and also review photographs of tracks to determine their freshness.
Thank you all for your extraordinary efforts to seek out moose on a lovely morning. The terrain was challenging for both people and moose. It will be very curious to compare the counts, but also the locations of moose this year compared to previous years given the conditions. All this information helps wildlife managers provide guidance for moose and opportunities for each of you to share your stories with friends.
We want to give a final shout out to the 139 volunteers who joined us for our 14th annual Moose Day survey last month. As far as we know this was a record number of participants, as this Jackson Hole (and now Teton Valley) community tradition continues to grow!
In case you missed it, KHOL and Buckrail both reported on this year’s Moose Day. You can find the KHOL story here and the Buckrail story here.
In addition to these features, volunteer organizer France Clark shared her personalized post-Moose Day report with volunteers last week. Frances’s blog can be accessed here for those of you who didn’t receive it via email.
Moose in Cache Creek by Mitchell McClosky
While we won’t have official numbers until data is vetted and duplicated sightings are removed by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, some highlights from the report include:
382 volunteer hours contributed to the survey
42 total survey areas covered
8 total Teton Valley, ID survey locations
As many as 113 moose sightings, roughly on par with what we’ve observed in previous years (note: expect this number to change slightly after observations are vetted)
Participation from two wildlife tour companies (Buffalo Roam and Ecotour Adventures)
13 participants on the Cache Creek “moose walk”
Anecdotally, the deep snow may have limited moose sightings in areas where moose are generally spotted.
There were no moose observed in Ditch Creek or around the airport. Moose were also not observed in the Town of Jackson. On the other hand, there were quite a few moose spotted along creek and river bottoms, including Cache Creek, the Snake River Corridor, and even Pacific Creek up north.
Final counts from 2021 and 2022 were 108 and 101, respectively, so we might expect this year’s count to be similar even if a few duplicate sightings are removed.
As Nature Mapping Jackson Hole nears its landmark 1000th certified Nature Mapper, I thought it would be fun to write an article featuring a couple of newer Nature Mappers who were just trained in the last year. Many of you have participated in Nature Mapping and its variety of projects since its inception in 2009, but lots of new Nature Mappers have joined our ranks recently and we warmly welcome them!
Kathy O’Neil and John Norton have been visiting their property in the Teton Valley since 2006 and finally made the area their home in 2020 after Kathy retired from a career as a physician specializing in women’s imaging radiology. John describes himself as “never having been career minded,” but had a variety of interesting experiences throughout his working years. He served in the US Air Force for 10 years, during which time he received an MS in Astronautical Engineering. After leaving the Air Force, he cycled across America, “married his best friend [Kathy],” and moved to Salt Lake City where he worked as a consultant for a variety of organizations.
Kathy loves living in the Teton Valley, a “beautiful community” where she has already become heavily involved in conservation and wildlife projects. She hopes to become even more involved, as she trains to become a certified Idaho Master Naturalist through the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, and continues her education through opportunities with the Jackson Hole Wildlife Foundation. Kathy and John both enjoy skiing, hiking, and viewing wildlife. John describes the GYE as “providing a canvas for doing all the things I love to do.”
The couple tuned into the virtual October 2021 Nature Mapping Certification Training together from their home in Driggs, ID. They heard about JHWF’s Nature Mapping program through the Teton Regional Land Trust, as well as involved friends, and immediately began participating in a variety of Nature Mapping projects. Both have submitted data to Casual Observations and Project Backyard as well as attending JHWF Continuing Education seminars and snowshoeing to count moose during Moose Day.
When asked what their favorite animals are, John and Kathy had very different, but equally beautiful answers. Kathy described her ex-feral Siamese cat Smudge, who she rescued. John’s favorite animal is any animal he is near that is undisturbed by his presence. To me, their answers are those of two conservation heroes. Through the action of rescuing a feral cat, Kathy saved not only the life of the cat, but also the lives of the many birds, small mammals, insects, reptiles, and amphibians the cat would have killed over the course of its life as a feral. John’s attempts to view wildlife without disturbing them means he values the safety of the animals on the landscape over his own self-interests such as viewing the animal more closely or getting a great photograph.
All of the Nature Mapping projects they have participated in have been fun for the couple, but they particularly enjoyed Moose Day for the organization and collective effort by citizen scientists. They were also thrilled to participate in Casey McFarland’s tracking class and other continuing education opportunities through JHWF. Together, Kathy and John have submitted more than 100 Nature Mapping observations in a little more than half a year. John’s favorite observation was of a flock of Bohemian Waxwings that he observed this winter in the Teton Valley. He described loving the sounds they made and how the flock “moved through the sky as if it was one organism, an angel.” Kathy’s favorite observation was of a moose that she found sleeping near her bedroom window one morning this winter. She described the experience of realizing they had spent the night only 15 feet apart as one she will not forget.
The couple participate in citizen science because they desire to give back to the wildlife they love. John says, “we share this planet with life forms that modern society has learned to completely ignore, abuse, and destroy.” Through citizen science, he hopes to bring more awareness to these issues. Kathy appreciates that the data she provides will “help policy makers, scientists, and the general public better understand the needs of wildlife.” Both people think that it is important for humans to share the planet with our fellow denizens “in a more respectful way.” Kathy and John are inspired to participate in citizen science because they value personal responsibility and science. Kathy, with her background in medicine, “has a deep respect for science and believes there is an immense potential for deepening our collective knowledge through the contributions of citizen science.” John eloquently states that citizen science “provides a foundation of understanding through thoughtful practices by ordinary people.”
In conclusion, John states, “life is a quilt work of experiences and Nature Mapping is one, recent, piece of the quilt that makes it bigger and warmer.” Through Nature Mapping, Kathy has learned how much there is to see when one pays more attention. When asked what they hope to get out of Nature Mapping into the future, they responded that they hope to share the experiences they have with friends and family, while “contributing to the ongoing health and resilience of wildlife in the GYE.” They each had a bit of advice for other Nature Mappers. John encourages folks to “slow down, watch, and listen,” and Kathy says, “It is valuable work. Stay engaged.”
Thank you for your extraordinary participation in Moose Day 2021. At this time, we have preliminary totals of 106 moose and 109 volunteers who spent 300 hours scouting! The majority of you drove (163 hrs), others skied (74 hrs), a few snowmobiled (33.5 hrs), many walked (25 hrs), and one group snowshoed (4 hrs).This is impressive! Unfortunately, as often happens on Moose Day, only half the teams saw moose (18 out of 34). This is not a reflection on your effort—you tried hard! Moose appeared most frequently along the Gros Ventre River as far east as the Darwin Ranch (14), to along the stretch around Kelly to the rotary (19). Others were seen in much less wild terrain, such as around golf courses at Teton Golf and Tennis and Teton Pines (around 20). Some were resting and feeding in neighborhoods around Wilson, Tribal Trails, and Crescent H subdivisions. Areas of deep snow in the park, downtown Jackson, the forested slopes along Fish and Fall Creek Roads had none this year. Even the Buffalo Valley, a former hotspot, had only 4 moose.
Photo: Josh Metten, Ecotour Adventures
Searching for moose had its challenges. Several reported steep and high snowbanks along roads. “Berms were high so though we tried to cover the area, one never knows as it only takes a small something to hide the animals when they are lying down.” Grace Barca and her granddaughter Elly spent the morning combing the area along Fall Creek Road and up into Indian Paintbrush. “The residents said the snow was too deep on the hill.” So they looked on the flats … “We crossed three streams: Fish and Fall Creeks and the Snake and expected something in the lowlands.” Still no moose. Moose were few around Trail Creek likely because of the cross-country ski races. Notably, for only the second year, we had a team in Alta who spotted 2 moose after much driving and walking.
Photo: Jenny McCarthy
Jason Wilmot, biologist with the US Forest Service, led the most adventurous team on two snowmobiles east out the Gros Ventre to the Darwin Ranch. He texted: “We saw 14 moose up the Gros …. Only one dead snowmobile! Bummer. All safe though!…Beautiful up there!”…“On the hunt for a new snowmobile.” His teammate Lesley Williams, who waited two hours while the one snowmobile finished the search, was delighted to have the time alone in the solitude of wilderness. We appreciate the USFS folks for taking their days off to go search for moose.
While many people did not see moose, they did see other wildlife. The team in the north end of the park around the Jackson Lake Dam had a special treat: Kent Clements and his wife saw otter tracks around Willow Flats, and Eric Carr actually saw an otter “catch the biggest sucker fish I’ve ever seen. Huge!” Matt Fagan reported, “No moose, no traces, but we did get to watch a family of four otters moving through Willow Flats up and over dam wall…body sledding, each taking their own line down the back side. Very fun to watch. Their movements were like inchworms: doubling up in the middle then slide stretching out. Inchworm or slinky like.”
Photo: Beverly Boyton
In their territory around Ditch Creek, Beverly Boynton and Ray White reported Horned Larks, mule deer, Greater Sage-Grouse, and a Great Grey Owl. Kathy McCurdy and Nancy Shea skied the stretch from Kelly to the Gros Ventre Campground and were surprised by an elk in the willows. Marjie Pettus and Brian Bilyeu scouted East Jackson and “did not see a single moose. That said, our trip was not uneventful: we saw elk (of course), bighorn sheep, 2 bald eagles, 3 deer, and no surprise, but fun 2 trumpeter swans” on the National Elk Refuge. Sue and John Ewan were down by the Snake River Sporting Club and spied a large flock of American Robins, along with Townsend’s Solitaires, and a Mourning Dove. Kathy and Jay Buchner also spotted robins north of the junction of Boyles Hill and Ely Springs Roads.
While there were no moose in their territory of the Snake River Ranch, team members observed many tracks and critters. Ben Wise saw “lots of fox tracks, maybe some ermine tracks, and a magnificent pair of bald eagles”. Jennifer Dorsey and KO Strohbehn noted tracks of martin, coyote, fox and deer, and heard Red-winged Blackbirds. Josh Metten, was able to discern “many fox tracks and holes they dug for the ‘catch.’ Vole?” Gretchen Plender reported. “Two Canada Geese flew into land in the ponds on the Shooting Star grounds! Julie (her ski partner) exclaimed, ‘Oh spring is coming!!’”
In addition, Renée Seidler, executive director of JHWF, in the area south of South Park found “two coyotes and a boat-load of swans south of the Snake River.” Mary Ellen and Bill Fausone surveyed Saddle Butte area and reported a fox, 9 deer, and “when we got home a gorgeous Great Horned Owl nesting in a tree. So is was a great day to see wildlife.”
We want to add thanks to the contributions of agencies, wildlife tour companies, and landowners. Sarah Dewey and Carson Butler of Grand Teton National Park found the 4 moose up at Buffalo Valley (fewer than in past years). Sarah also facilitated the park permit. Ben Wise of WGFD organized the team on the Snake River Ranch. Morgan Graham of Teton Conservation District surveyed Game Creek. Note, Morgan used his GIS skills to produce the Moose Day maps when Moose Day first started. Aly Courtemanch is the lead for Moose Day at WGFD. Without her, we would not have Moose Day!
Photo: Josh Metten, Ecotour Adventures
We thank the owners and property managers for permission to scout Snake River Ranch, Spring Creek Ranch, Jackson Hole Winery, Jackson Hole Golf and Tennis, Teton Pines, Astoria Park Conservancy, Snake River Sporting Club, Teton Mountain Schools, and the many other private landowners. We appreciate the volunteer time of tour companies: AJ DeRosa of JH Vintage Adventures, Josh Metten of EcoTour Adventures, and Matt Fagan of Buffalo Roam Tours.
And a final note: We had participation from hearty volunteers of the Barker, Dornan, Craighead, Ewing, and Linn families—who have contributed to the understanding and appreciation of our wildlife heritage over decades. Without their commitment to the valley, we would not have so many moose and other wildlife to enjoy on Moose Day.
This is preliminary data. We will have a final report in our next Nature Mapping enews with a map of where all the moose were and comparisons to years before. However, we wanted you to be the first to know the success of Moose Day 2021.
We had a windy day with off-and-on light snow, pretty good visibility, and temperature ranging from around 8 degrees to 18 degrees Farenheit in the Jackson area. We had 80 Moose Day volunteers on 33 teams covering 53 different areas. Unfortunately 14 teams struck out…no moose. This is always disappointing to the hardy observers, but “0” is important data, as well. We can get a feel for where the moose don’t go regularly over the years or the variability of their movements.
So where did the moose show up? Wilson once again had a high proportion: about 27 in different clusters and pairs. Grand Teton National Park from Kelly a bit north and west over through the Solitude development had approximately 25. Another eight were seen in the Jackson Hole Golf and Tennis area, including three spotted by Bryan, a guest staying with Randy Reedy. Bryan was getting into his car while Randy was out scouting! Volunteer time: five minutes. Jason Wilmot of USFS and partner saw 15 moose snowmobiling out to the end of the Gros Ventre road. Last year the team saw a remarkable high of 57 moose. Sarah Dewy and Steve Kilpatrick saw five moose in the Buffalo Valley area vs. 20 last year, and an overall low for that territory. The north and southern extremes of our count area had no moose. The total number of moose is 94, but we will double check for a couple of possible overlaps. This number is roughly average–87 is the average count, excluding two high years (2011 – 124 moose; 2017 – 172 moose –both years with alot of snow).
The most observed moose was one browsing and then sleeping along a row of willows just west of Stilson in Wilson. Over eight people reported seeing it there. We will count it once.
Eight mappers saw this moose, but it was counted once. By Amy Conway.
Other Highlights of the Day Besides Moose:
Several observers saw bald eagles in courtship. Bernie, Diane and Alice saw one pair of adults where the male bird was about 75% smaller than the female–this was an extreme example of a typical size difference in raptors females and males.
That team also sighted Townsend’s Solitaire and Snow Buntings on their territory south of Jackson. Morgan Graham took a picture of a Northern Shrike down in the same vicinity.
Trumpeter Swans, Barrow’s Golden-eyes, Mallards and mergansers were treats along the creeks and rivers.
Two groups of 15-16 elk were seen in different corners of Wilson. Pine Grosbeaks, European Starlings, woodpeckers, Great Blue Herons and coyotes also delighted Nature Mappers, especially those who did not see moose!
Thank you all for keeping your eyes out for moose in Moose Day 2018! The moose thank you, we at Nature Mapping Jackson Hole thank you.
Moose hiding but counted on Moose Day by Kathy McCurdy