Bear in some bushes

Beavers and Bison and Bears, Oh My!

How to be good guests to the local wildlife in Jackson Hole.

By Apres Noon | May 24th, 2021

We’re not kidding when we call local wildlife our neighbors. It’s not uncommon to see moose in your backyard or cross paths with a deer on a bike ride. But this is technically their home — we’re all just guests in it. As such, it’s up to us to mind our manners. Here’s how to safely and respectfully appreciate Jackson Hole’s treasured wildlife.

Keep your distance

No matter how harmless or cute or cold they look, wildlife is wild. Animals are unpredictable and can be dangerous. Stay at least 25 yards away from most wildlife and at least 100 yards away from big predators like bears and wolves. If you’re adventuring with a dog, make sure it is under control, leashed and close to you. Never pet, ride, or feed a wild animal. It puts you and others in danger and can also be deadly for the animals. This goes for trash, too — even if it’s technically biodegradable, it belongs in a trash bin, otherwise it attracts animals and puts everyone in danger. There’s a saying around here: “a fed bear is a dead bear.” Every year, Grand Teton National Park has to euthanize animals for getting too comfortable around humans due to food rewards. Their lives aren’t worth the photo or proximity.

Dsc7351 New Thought Digital Agency

Give them a brake

Several roads and highways in Jackson Hole run directly through wildlife habitat. Wildlife-vehicle collisions claim the lives of 300 animals every year on average. Luckily, Jackson time is slower than real-world time. The trailhead or dinner reservation can wait a few extra minutes. Mind the speed limit — some roads have nightly speed limits that are slower than the daytime limit — and keep a sharp eye on the road.

It’s natural to want to stop and take photos if you do see wildlife on the side of the road. But be cognizant of your surroundings. Only stop if it is safe and out of the way of traffic. Maintain the appropriate distance from wildlife, or stay in your car.

Trust the locals
The best way to see wildlife is with a guide. Guides genuinely love their animal neighbors and are eager to share their love and knowledge with clients. Outfitters like Jackson Hole EcoTour Adventures, Jackson Hole Wildlife Safaris, and more employ expert naturalists who can tell you everything you might want to know about our local fauna. Guides also know some of the best viewing spots. Many tours start at the crack of dawn (the best time to see wildlife), but the early alarm is worth it (and coffee is provided). Summer tours book quickly, so book yours now.

Respect closures

Seasonal wildlife closures in and around Jackson help preserve critical wildlife habitat. Jackson in the winter can be harsh and unforgiving for the animals that live here, so it’s especially important that they have spaces to rest and recover safely in the winter and early summer. Learn more about seasonal wildlife closures here.

Three Bull Moose

Grin and bear it

Jackson Hole is home to healthy populations of both grizzly and black bears, and we think they deserve their own shout-out. Seeing them in the wild is an unforgettable experience. But sharing space with bears requires extra caution. When out on the trails, always carry bear spray and know how to use it. You can rent bear spray at Teton Backcountry Rentals. Travel in groups if possible, and make noise when visibility is limited to avoid startling a bear.

If you do encounter a bear out on the trails, do not run. It’s not a race you’re going to win. Instead, “look big” and move slowly and calmly away while keeping the bear in your periphery. Don’t drop your pack as a buffer — this teaches bears to expect human food and puts them in danger. On the rare occasion a bear charges or attacks, break out the bear spray. Some charges are just bluffs. If it does make contact, lie flat on your stomach with your legs slightly spread and play dead (this is where holding onto your backpack also comes in handy — it’s an extra layer of protection). Cover the back of your neck with your hands and stay still until the bear is gone. Learn more about bear safety from the National Park Service.

Remember, local wildlife was here first! Our four-legged neighbors are our biggest treasures. They deserve our love and respect so we can continue to coexist for generations to come. Remember, around here, the Wild Rules.

Apres Noon

Apres Noon

Blog Author

Après Noon is a storytelling duo. One part Shannon Sollitt one part Jonathan Crosby, the pair is dedicated to telling authentic, engaging stories. They’re both experienced journalists with a thirst for adventure. They call Jackson Hole home.

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