Spring Creek Ranch is conveniently located to two of the most captivating national parks in the United States. You can take off from Spring Creek for a day trip and see the lower loop of Yellowstone, the nation’s first national … Continue reading →
It is a relatively quiet time in Jackson Hole in terms of people but one of the best times to view wildlife. Ground squirrels have finally emerged from their long hibernation, migratory birds such as bluebirds, cranes, red-tail and Swainson’s Hawks have returned and the large hoofed mammals are on the move toward their Summer ranges.
Today, we watched a pair of coyotes chasing bighorn sheep, a porcupine foraging in an open meadow, and a northern shrike along with over a dozen moose, thousands of elk and mule deer. Elk and moose aren’t typically found in the same habitats but we were fortunate to observe both (the two largest members of the deer family) side by side as they browsed and migrated through Grand Teton National Park.
Lots of moose activity has been seen on recent safaris and this moose was particularly entertaining to watch as it eagerly browsed on a spruce tree. Spruce are probably not a moose’s favorite food, but long Winters limit available forage and require them to diversify their diet. Moose are often the highlight of a wildlife safari since they are so unique looking and seem to have a lot of personality. Signs of Spring continue to take place and today I saw my first Osprey which had returned to Jackson Hole after its long migration South (often as far away as South America).
The snowy weather throughout today seemed to contradict some of the Spring wildlife sightings that were taking place at the same time.
Mountain bluebirds have made their return along with red-winged blackbirds and the largest bull elk have dropped the antlers that they worked so hard to grow last year. Each Spring, we hope that our pair of bald eagles that nest on Spring Creek Ranch will return for another attempt at nesting, and yesterday I was happy to observe both adults perched on the nest. I’ll continue to watch this nest to monitor the pair’s progress. The largest (but, not heaviest) owl in North America is the great gray owl and we are fortunate to be one of the few regions that this owl calls home. We actually found two on today’s safari and I really liked how this one looked thanks to the surrounding snowfall. Moose were also on the move today and we ended up with a total ten moose sightings throughout the day.
Today’s excursion was a classic winter wildlife safari here in Jackson Hole with sightings of bighorn sheep, many bald eagles, coyotes, mule deer and thousands of elk. Our local wildlife is very well equipped to deal with snowy days such as today, as this moose photograph suggests. The snow landing on the fur of this moose isn’t melting which tells us that there is a substantial temperature gradient between its skin and outer-most fur which keeps it comfortable even in extreme conditions.
This moose can be determined to be a bull by the presence of its ‘pedicle’ which is the part of the skull from which the antlers grow. It can be seen just in front of the ears. The blizzarding snow surrounding this moose was captured by stabilizing the camera and setting it to a very slow shutter speed. Other interesting sightings from today included a northern shrike and large flock of sage grouse.
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.
Today’s safari observed a very unusual combination of sightings which included four species within the Cervidae (deer) family here in Jackson Hole. The rarest deer found here is the white-tailed deer (seen commonly in the east) so after spotting this large ungulate along the eastern border of Grand Teton National Park, we were especially excited to view elk, moose and mule deer throughout the evening’s outing.
This is a rare compilation of mammal sightings and the addition of bighorn sheep, bison and ground squirrels only added to our impressive species list for the day. Interesting bird sightings of the safari included horned larks, mountain bluebirds, bald eagles, red-tailed hawks and green-winged teals.
Once bull moose shed their antlers, they always look a little like they aren’t wearing clothes anymore (or like a female moose.) Almost all of the bull moose have shed their antlers, but there are one or two small bulls that are still carrying their mini-antlers around proudly.
This image was taken on yesterday’s safari and if you look closely on the skull in between the ears and the eyes, you can see the pedicle which is where the antlers had attached to the head. This bull will likely remain “naked” for another couple of months before beginning to grow new antlers.
While enjoying my cup of coffee this morning my neighbor Mildred (see right) stopped over to say hi! Mildred can be a little intrusive, just coming up on the porch and peering through the windows, she knows she is always welcome.
Although human food isn’t on her diet, the pine trees in my yard are. Moose are one of the only animals that can digest the spiky leaves.
Not many people can say that their neighbors are moose, elk, and mule deer. Living in Jackson Hole is always an adventure!