As wildlife conservation professionals, we remind ourselves to celebrate the successes. Sometimes we get so wrapped into understanding and mitigating the challenges facing wildlife that we feel frustrated. In these moments, it is sometimes in our best interest, our community’s best interest, and the best interest of the ecosystem to also tally up and celebrate the successes we have achieved. By doing so, we rediscover the wind in our sails. By sharing our observations of our successes, we hope to provide inspiration for our colleagues and friends (all of you!) to continue your conservation efforts!
We are happy to recognize a list of recent achievements that we and our colleagues have made happen. Did you follow the hard work that the County did to update the Wildlife Feeding Land Development Regulation (LDR) this spring? Did you know that the LDR does not include land in the Town of Jackson? Jackson manages wildlife feeding concerns separately from the County and they have embarked on discussions about their Wildlife Feeding Ordinance.
At a recent Town Council meeting, staff and Council members were unanimously in favor of improving the language in the ordinance to provide better security for bears and other wildlife. Councilman Rooks aptly summed up the sentiment in the meeting, “We are blessed to live in bear country and we need to act like it.” The Town will go through two more iterations of reviewing the ordinance language before they approve tighter restrictions on wildlife feeding, whether intentional or not.
Do you remember when JHWF installed ‘wildlife ramps’ on the Snake River levee? That project fledged circa 2015 in the hands of Jon Mobeck, then ED of JHWF, and Steve Brandenburg, board member JHWF. The goal was to make it easier for all wildlife, but especially hooved animals, to access the river by giving them a path though riprap (large, uneven rocks) in which an ungulate could easily break a leg. Three ramps were built and trail cameras immediately captured images of elk, moose, deer, and even coyotes drawn to this new, preferred access to the Snake River.
This summer we worked the with Teton Conservation District to install additional wildlife ramps along the levee system near the Wilson Bridge. The additional ramps augmenting the impact of the existing ramps by increasing the number of easy access locations on the many miles of riprap along the levee Our trail cameras are currently in place, collecting images of wildlife using the ramps. We can’t wait to show you what we’ve found!
Another win for wildlife in our community has been the system of exclusionary fencing and wildlife underpasses on S. Hwy 89, between Melody Ranch and Hoback Junction. Preliminary data has already shown a reduction in wildlife-vehicle collisions (especially involving mule deer) as animals are learning to use the underpasses to move beneath the roadway.
Last month, we worked with our partners at WYDOT, Teton Conservation District, Wyoming Game and Fish and Teton County to design, order, and install signage on the many pedestiran gates along this stretch of roadway. When these gates are accidentally left open, wildlife are able to access the highway instead of being funneled by the fencing to the underpasses. Ensuring the gates stay closed is important in order to allow the fencing and underpass system to do its job moving forward.
Of course, there are staffing successes to report too!
We can’t say enough about the work ethic and positive attitude of our summer intern Charlie Brandin. Charlie played such an important role supporting our bird-banding team in action this summer. She also eagerly pitched in on several fence pulls and helped us collect data on existing fences in Grand Teton National Park as part of a major fence inventory project we’re undertaking with both the Park and Bridger-Teton National Forest.
While Charlie recently departed to begin her junior year of college on the East Coast, we are now looking forward to filling a new, full-time position of “BearWise Jackson Hole Program Manager.” This position will allow JHWF and our BearWise Jackson Hole partners to better address the persistence of human-bear conflict here in Teton County. Our goal is to have the new Program Manager out in the field helping to reduce conflicts by mid-November!
In recognition of all of this and more, won’t you join us in celebration?
GUEST BLOG: The Jackson Hole Wildlife Foundation asked our friends and fellow Nature Mappers, Betty and Chuck Mulcahy to share a bit with us about their current volunteer work at the National Elk Refuge. Betty and Chuck do a lot to educate the public about the wonders of snakes and demystify their wicked reputation. Don’t be afraid, read on and learn about our serpent friends:
“Count the snakes and keep your distance!” a friend warned in an email after we told her our new assignment for biological work on the National Elk Refuge was to survey reptiles, mainly counting the snakes.
Unknown to her, the snakes in Jackson Hole are comprised of three non-venomous species. Because one species, the rubber boa, is nocturnal, we don’t expect to encounter it on our rounds, although our biologist mentioned he had seen one once during the day.
The other two species are the wandering gartersnake and the valley gartersnake. The wandering gartersnake is the more numerous and is unlikely to bite if picked up. Instead, this species prefers to defend itself by exuding a musk in your hand, much like pooping. As we tell school children when we present a reptile program in their classrooms, this defense is very effective due to the pungent odor! Their response is always the same: “Eeeeeew!”
However, locating snakes on 25,000 acres can be tricky – perhaps likened to searching for the proverbial needle in a haystack. Our long-time mentor in snake locating is a Denver Zoo reptile keeper, as well as rattlesnake researcher, who can find a snake with the ease of a professional.
In the past, we have spotted snakes on top of Miller Butte, thermoregulating across roads, swimming in creeks, and hiding in sidewalk cracks and under steps. Now, scouring the Refuge, we flip rocks, turn logs, lift tarps, and trudge through thick vegetation in our search.
Because snakes have yet to be surveyed on the Refuge, no precedent is set for their documentation. Consequently, we outline our search area on a map and record date and findings in a comment section. Finding nothing is as important to record as our successes, according to our biologist, as is recording any dead serpents.
While the wandering gartersnake can often be found at a distance from water, the valley gartersnake is found more often near water and is believed to have declined in population over the years.
For more detailed information including photographs on the three snake species found in Teton County, WY visit the following links:
Northern Rubber Boa – Charina bottae – looks like a fake rubber snake, with its lack of distinctive head or tail or any markings. In Wyoming, it is found only in the mountainous northwestern region.
Wandering Gartersnake – Thamnophis elegans vagrans – is by far the most common gartersnake in Teton County and ranges across the state. The body background color varies from brown to olive, and the stripes and markings can vary in intensity, but it will not have red.
The Valley Gartersnake – Thamnophis elegans fitchi – has a very limited range in Wyoming: the very western edge of Teton and Lincoln Counties. It is distinctive from the Wandering Gartersnake by its red accents.
Please join us Saturday, June 3 at Buffalo Valley Swan Pond, Bridger-Teton National Forest to volunteer to help with the removal of barbed wire and smooth wire fences.
For our first public project of the year, we plan to remove .5 miles of barbed wire and smooth wire fencing in prime wildlife habitat in the Buffalo Valley. The work area is scenic and the terrain is flat and easily traversed. This project assists our partners at Bridger-Teton National Forest as they aim to make important habitat more permeable to wildlife movement.
The project is average in difficulty (3 on a 1-10 scale).
We will meet at two car pool sites:
Home Ranch Parking Lot (north side) at 8:15 a.m.
Gros Ventre Junction at 8:30 a.m.
We will carpool from these sites to the project. We plan to work from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and half-day (morning) is welcome, as well. We will provide water, Gatorade and snacks. Please bring your own water bottle or hydration packs. We will take a mid-day lunch break so please bring your own lunch.
Gear:You should wear layered clothes, long pants, sturdy shoes, and bring a rain jacket in case of storms. Sun or eyeglasses are a MUST for working with barbed wire. Sun protection (hat & sunscreen lotion) is also recommended, and will hopefully be necessary! We also recommend that volunteers check the status of their tetanus shots, in case of scratches from the old fencing material. We will provide work gloves and tools.
Please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org if you plan to attend and let us know at which car pool site you will join us (1 of 2 locations listed above). You can also send questions to this same email address. Additional last-minute information on this event will be posted here.
Eagle Scout is the highest achievement or rank attainable in the Boy Scouting program of the Boy Scouts of America. The requirements necessary to achieve this rank take years to fulfill, and must include completion of an extensive service project that the Scout plans, organizes, leads, and manages. Luckily for the Jackson Hole Wildlife Foundation, prospective Eagle Scout Maclain Smith from Utah, made us the beneficiary of his service project. This past Friday afternoon, Maclain came up to Jackson to install 52 Mountain bluebird nestboxes that he and fellow Scouts constructed by hand.
With lots of laughs and great spirit, Maclain and nine of his family members spent a sunny autumn afternoon installing new pinewood nestboxes on half of our Mountain bluebird trail that runs along the western boundary of the National Elk Refuge. Our old nestboxes (that served their purpose for 13 years!) were taken to Teton Recycling Center where they will be repurposed into wood mulch and used for gardening and landscaping purposes. After 13 years, we felt it time to retire the old nestboxes as they had seen many repairs over the years, but their deteriorating condition was starting to present challenges in terms of predator control and protecting nests from bad weather conditions.
Not only are we fortunate to have the help of Maclain, but we currently have two more prospective Eagle Scouts producing a total of 72 additional nestboxes that will be installed this coming spring. Of these 72 — the other half of our trail will receive 52 new nestboxes, we are looking into placing additional nestboxes elsewhere on the National Elk Refuge, and keep a few in storage. Thank goodness for Scouts!
Click here to see a photo gallery documenting Maclain installing new Mountain bluebird nestboxes with the help of his family and JHWF staff.
Click hereto read an account of the project published by the National Elk Refuge.
On August 6th, we are returning to the Gros Ventre to Crystal Creek, to remove more than one mile of barbed wire fence on Bridger Teton National Forest land. The project is average in difficulty (6 on a 1-10 scale), with most of the work on rolling terrain after a moderate hike up to the fence line. Please join us!
We will meet at three car pool sites:
Home Ranch Parking Lot (north side) at 8:00 a.m.
Gros Ventre junction at 8:15 a.m.
Kelly Warm Springs at 8:30 a.m.
We will carpool from these sites to project. We plan to work from 9:00 a.m to 2:00 p.m. and half-day (morning) is welcome, as well.
We will provide water and snacks. Please bring your own water bottle or hydration packs. We will provide water and Gatorade to fill your bottles, and some granola bars for a snack. Additionally we will take a mid-day lunch break. Please bring your lunch.
You should wear layered clothes, long pants, sturdy shoes and bring a rain jacket in case of storms. Sun or eyeglasses are a MUST for working with barbed wire. Sun protection (hat & sunscreen lotion) is also recommended, and will hopefully be necessary! We also recommend that volunteers check the status of their tetanus shots, in case of scratches from the old fencing material. We will provide work gloves, tools, and detailed instructions.
Please RSVP to email@example.com if you plan to attend and let us know at which meet-up point you will join us (1 of 3 locations listed above). You can also send questions to this same email address.
30 Volunteers removed 1 mile of barbed wire at Crystal Creek on July 16th.