One of the coolest wildlife behaviors to see during Winter months is a red fox stalking and diving after its prey and today we had the good fortune to witness (and photograph) this on our safari. The fox begins by walking carefully on the packed snow so as to not alert rodents underneath. Once it hears or smells activity underneath the snow, it tenses its entire body, leaps high into the air and lands, jaws first, into the snow. If it is lucky, it emerges from the snow with an unfortunate rodent within its teeth. This action-packed sequence was a lot of fun to photograph and fortunately this fox gave us a couple of opportunities for trial and error.
The last few safaris have been absolutely phenomenal with excellent sightings and interesting behaviors observed. This black wolf was seen in Grand Teton National Park along with a gray-colored wolf nearby and was one of many great animals seen.
Other sightings included moose browsing on cottonwood trees, a young golden eagle attacking bighorn sheep, mountain goats navigating steep cliffs, and a porcupine perched in a tree.
Pine martens are one of the only local weasels that regularly spend time in trees (often pursuing red squirrels) and this individual put on a phenomenal show! We commonly encounter their unique track pattern in the snow but only see the animal itself a handful of times each year. Thanks to Lance, Sophie and Steve for the heads-up on this great sighting!
Heli skiing in the Tetons could very well be one of the most astonishing thrills a powder hound will ever experience! One of the hallmarks of a winter trip to Spring Creek Ranch is a heli-ski adventure with the folks from High Mountain Heli Skiing. What could be better than coveted “face shots” on every run and extraordinary tree skiing on terrain that belongs to you, and only you, for the entire day?
Guests are treated to over 305,000 acres of terrain south of the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort including all of the Snake River and Palisades Mountain Range. There’s plenty of powder stashes here on the Idaho side, too, at their disposal. This is the kind of backcountry experience nature intended.
After an incredible day carving your way down the mountains relax and rejuvenate at the Wilderness Adventure Spa where you can choose from a wide variety of luxury spa treatments, including deep tissue and sports massages.
Raccoons are not extremely common here in Jackson Hole so I was surprised to see this handsome critter in my yard the other night. Most trash containers in this area are bear-proof, so it wasn’t able to cause any trouble for us. Winter has arrived in full force and wildlife watching has been great.
We are seeing elk, mule deer and moose on Spring Creek Ranch regularly and many other animals nearby on our safaris including bighorn sheep, coyotes and eagles.
The vast majority of breeding birds have left Jackson Hole in search of warmer climates, but several birds including this Steller’s Jay will remain throughout the Winter. This image taken this morning shows the vibrant blue coloration of this jay’s wing and tail feathers and (simply by good luck) has a six-sided snow crystal which recently landed on this bird.
This lightweight brand of snowflake has landed in abundance during the past week, accumulating to over three feet of snow in the mountains and allowing Jackson Hole Mountain Resort to open all of its ski lifts this weekend.
One of the most unique animals within this ecosystem is the pronghorn (frequently called antelope) so it is appropriate that these animals engage in one of the most unique migrations in the entire continent. Jackson Hole’s population of pronghorn leave our valley each Fall moving south in the general direction of Pinedale, WY.
Their migration corridor is very narrow as it is constrained by their habitat preferences, highways, residential development and oil & gas development. As a result, we were able to watch hundreds of these speedy animals migrate during an outing yesterday to observe this phenomena. It was an amazing event to witness. The pronghorn doe in this image was one of about 140 which sprinted across a small county road bisecting their migration corridor. She was running at about 30 MPH so to capture her motion in this photograph, the shutter speed was set slow (1/50 sec) while the lens followed her from right to left.
This month’s multi-day safaris have been excellent in terms of cooperative weather and cooperative wildlife. Our primary objective on these safaris is to see predators and we were able to watch several species of predators on each of these including gray wolves, grizzly bears, eagles, coyotes, weasels and black bears.
During one evening, we witnessed a pack of gray wolves and a grizzly bear chasing one another as they all worked to establish dominance over the remnants of a kill. This sow grizzly bear and two cubs were seen in Hayden Valley and eventually swam across the Yellowstone River.
Along with large mammals, birds of prey seem to be a group of animals that most wildlife enthusiasts are strongly interested in. During Summer months, we often see five to six different species of raptors (birds of prey) and occasionally more on each safari.
This Swainson’s Hawk allowed our safari vehicle to approach very closely today so we all took advantage of its cooperative nature by studying its details closely with binoculars and taking some close-up photographs.