Teton Animal Update
Well, I am completely convinced that computers somehow have it out for me! Not sure what I’ve done to upset them in my previous life, but it must have been something BIG! I know that I am waaayy behind on blog posts now, but you have my handy computers to blame for that! I won’t bore you with all the details, but will just let you know that I was without a reliable computer at my disposal for weeks! And even now, with a new one on my lap, I must still admit, I have my doubts!
At any rate, instead of trying to catch you up on everything in the order in which we did it, I will jump to our current location of Grand Teton National Park, since I know some people are already chomping at the bit for some wildlife photos from around here. It might take me a bit to catch back up to everything, but sooner or later, I’ll get there. Just be patient with me.
We arrived here the very end of April for Sal to start his summer job. I still had some play time to fill before I had to start. And so, of course, that meant picking up the camera and heading out! Well, we were greeted two days after our arrival by this big guy directly behind our rig! I think he just wanted to stop by and welcome us to the neighborhood! What do you think????? He’s one of the larger Grizzly Bears (Ursus arctos horribilis) that we’ve seen in a very long time!
After that exciting start to the day, we took off and headed towards town and it felt like a few other animals were welcoming us back to the area. There were quite a few Elk (Cervus Canadensis), or Wapiti, out and about. They are one of the largest species of deer in the world and one of the largest land mammals of North America.
And then it happened! We got to see the world-famous Grizzly #399 for the first time this season with her two cubs from the previous year! I had seen their pictures from others on Facebook before we arrived, but it’s never quite the same as seeing them for yourself! I was very excited, to say the least!!! I was also very happy to see that the cubs had made it through the winter along with Mom, happy and healthy.
And then the next day, I was even lucky enough to get some better views of them all together! I hung out and watched them grub along the road with only a few other people for quite some time. Ahhh! The benefits of getting to the park early before all the tourists!!!!!They even wandered a bit closer as time went on, but don’t worry. They really aren’t as close as they might first appear. That is the magic of telephoto lenses!
Another animal that I’ve seen quite a few of this year are the Pronghorn (Antilocopra Americana). I think these are some of the most amazing looking animals. Although they resemble antelope and are often referred to as such, they actually are not. It is the only living member of its Antilocopra family, and is the fastest land mammal in the world! And before someone starts telling me that the Cheetah is faster, it is only a sprinter who dies out after only a few hundred yards, where Pronghorn can sprint as fast as 60 mph and sustain a speed of 30 mph for miles! No other land mammal can keep up with the Pronghorn over a long distance. I just think their markings are beautiful!!!
And, of course, it wouldn’t be a complete summer season without seeing a few of these little guys! The Yellow-Bellied Marmots (Marmota flaviventris), also known as a Rock Chuck or a “whistle pig” have come out of their hibernation and are seemingly everywhere this year!!I had a very fun and new experience early season this year by hiking with a Shiras Moose (Alces alces shirasi)! Yes, that’s right! Me and a moose, just the two of us, hiking up the trail together! It was early enough in the season that there was hardly anyone out hiking anywhere and I got to a point where there was this moose right in the middle of the trail and there wasn’t a way for me to get around it. So, we just hiked along together for quite some time before it finally left the trail and decided to lay down under some trees. It was all very thrilling!!
I’ve only been able to see a couple of American Black Bears (Ursus americanus) here since we’ve arrived, but I did stop to watch this one on my way home from work one evening. Solitary animals, black bears roam large territories, though they do not protect them from other bears.
At this point, although I had been lucky enough already to see all the above animals, along with a few birds that you don’t get to see all that often, I was a bit bummed that I hadn’t been able to see the also-famous Grizzly 610 with her cubs yet this season. I know; I’m spoiled! Anyhow, I didn’t have to wait any longer! While I was watching the Black Bear, I got a call letting me know where 610 was if I wanted to go try to get some photos. Excitedly, I hurried over to her location!! It’s great having friends that love the bears as much as I do, so they can let me know where they’re hanging out!! Now for those of you who have been reading my blog since last year might recall, one of these cubs is actually a half-sibling of 610 since both of their Mom’s are Grizzly 399 above. If you didn’t get that scoop from last year, check out my blog post from then here. Everyone was very happy to see that all three little ones made it through the winter and came out happy & healthy!
Now, I just want to make sure all of you understand that everything here in Grand Teton is not just fun and games. I mean, just look at the kind of things I have to put up with along my drive to work. I had to actually wait for the traffic to clear up before I was able to continue my commute! Can you imagine???And of course it wouldn’t be a summer in the Tetons without at least a little Grizzly Bear drama along the way!! So, all of a sudden Grizzly 399’s cubs were each seen separately and alone and no one was seeing 399! As you can imagine, this caused all kinds of concern among all of the Bear Watchers in the park! There are a few theories as to what happened exactly, and we’ll never really know since no one witnessed it, but the main thought is that a Grizzly boar probably chased the cubs away from Mom to try to force her into estrus for breeding again. This little one was hanging around the Colter Bay area of the park for quite some time. He/She ended up with the nickname of “Brownie” but Sal and I just call him “Little Shit.”
So, the rest of the story now is that the two cubs have found each other, which is just short of a miracle the way they were in different areas of the park all together at times. This greatly increases their chances of survival. This has everyone very relieved and happy! I thought that I would never get to see them for myself together, but just the other day on my way home from work, there they were!!! Yay!!!!
And, of course, we don’t want to forget our little itty bitty critters in the park either. I love watching the little Least Chipmunks (Neotamias minimus) as they scurry around on the trails! Aren’t they so cute?
But don’t confuse him with this other little fella though, the Golden-Mantled Ground Squirrel. Many people think that this is also a chipmunk because of his coloring, but he isn’t. He’s a squirrel. He’s a bit larger than the Chipmunk is.
Sal’s even been able to get in on the wildlife watching. He came across this Black Bear hanging around right along the side of the road. I can’t believe it was staying so close to the road itself! At work at the Visitor’s Center, I had heard about a baby Moose that had just been born the day before, so on my way back home, I stopped along the spot that it was hanging around in, but it was laying down in such a way that you really couldn’t see anything but it’s little ears. So the next morning, I left early so I’d have some extra time on my way in and stopped again and I was rewarded BIG TIME!!!! This little one was only two days old!!!!! Is this adorable or what??????
And then about a week later, Sal and I were able to see a baby Elk that wasn’t much older than this baby Moose! Neither one of us had ever seen one quit this young before! Gotta love those cute babies!!! And there you have the up-to-date photos, news, and drama of the wildlife in Grand Teton National Park as I know of. At least as of now. I’m sure it will continue to change as the summer progresses and as long as I can keep a computer working for a while I will do my best to keep up on all the goings on and pass it along in a more timely fashion. Hope you’ve enjoyed the virtual wildlife tour and Happy Trails until next time!
P.S. I didn’t want to delay posting this, but now the latest bear update is that just a couple of days ago, a young male grizzly was hit and killed during an accident in the park. They are not sure at this point whether it was one of the young bears I wrote about above or not, but I will let you know once I find out. They have actually sent out DNA samples to find out whether it is one of 399’s cubs or not. We are all waiting to hear. If your travels take you through our national parks or wilderness areas where wildlife occurs, please drive safely for yourself, as well as for them.