Jackson’s winter wildlife


By Kelton Hatch - Journal Outdoors Editor

JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. — Tucked in the folds of the Rocky Mountains, covered in a shining blanket of white is the home of thousands of elk, hundreds of bison and Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep — just a few of the animals visitors to the Jackson Hole area can enjoy.

Bald eagles, coyotes, ravens, magpies and other scavengers are often spotted near the many wintering animals, making it a wildlife feast for viewers.

“I just love being out in the woods and seeing the animals,” said Jeannie Meyer of Redding, Calif. “The wildlife here is fantastic, the scenery and the geology of the area is fabulous.”

Meyer, like thousand of wildlife buffs, comes to the Jackson Hole area to enjoy the winter wonderland.

Lining the road with binoculars and spotting scopes, guests to the area view a bald eagle feeding on an elk carcass as a winter-worn coyote tries to steal a bite of the frozen meat.

Magpies and ravens hop around as if they are too full to eat, but can't stand the thought of lea
Hundreds of elk can be viewed by travelers along Highway 89.
ving the smorgasbord.

“It’s a real treat to be here,” says Vincent Maxson, of Boston. "It's relaxing and beautiful country.

“We have mountains back home, but they are nothing like this.”

People willing to spend the time and drive a little have the opportunity to view wildlife from the comfort of their vehicles.

Among the best roads for people to take after getting to Jackson are those around the National Elk Refuge.

The interior road taking the visitors into the refuge on the east side of the area offers wildlife viewers the opportunity to see bighorn sheep and elk up close.

There is no hiking in the area and guests are required t
Taking a sleigh ride is a good way to view the elk in the National Elk Refuge.
o stay on the roads, but with a good pair of binoculars or a spotting scope people are able to view dozens of animals wintering in the high mountain valley.

Those wanting to learn more about the animals and the surrounding area can hire one of several guide services.

Wildlife Expeditions, managed by the Teton Science School is one of the most popular for visitors, offering daily wildlife tours of the area.

"Educating and teaching people about the wildlife and the area is what I love to do," says guide Kirsten Kapp. "We try to teach people about the animals, their habitat and what they do in the winter to survive.

"But the most important thing we try to teach is how to view animals in a safe way, not disturbing them or approaching them and watching them from a safe distance because they are wild animals."

The tours offer all the gear needed for a day of viewing wildlife except for the clothing needed to keep warm.

For more information on viewing wildlife in the area, contact the Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce at (307) 733-3316 or for tour information with the Teton Science School, call 1-888-945-3567.

Getting there

There are two ways to get to Jackson.

- From Pocatello, take Interstate 15 north to Idaho Falls. Take Highway 26 out of Idaho Falls to Alpine Junction. At Alpine take Highway 89 into Jackson. It takes two to three hours depending on road conditions.

- Travelers can also take Interstate 15 south to the Highway 30 exchange near McCammon. Take Highway 30 east to Soda Springs and turn north on Highway 34 to the Wyoming line. At Freedom take Highway 89 north to Alpine Junction.

This route takes roughly three hours depending on road conditions.






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