Mountain Lion Sighting In Jackson Hole
Read this firsthand account of Spring Creek Ranch Naturalist Dawson Smith’s wildlife sighting of a mountain lion spotted in the town of Jackson in January 2020. When it comes to tracking wildlife, Dawson is an expert at making wildlife sightings happen for tour clients at Spring Creek Ranch. Get to know him and the rest of our Naturalist staff here.
Interested in embarking on a wildlife safari of your own this winter? Check out the winter programs we offer.
Mountain Lion Sighting as told by Spring Creek Ranch Naturalist Dawson Smith:
Typical Work Day Morning
The morning of January 10th was a pretty typical start to a Wednesday. I was in a naturalist department planning meeting for the new year, discussing plans for the safaris we offer at Spring Creek Ranch. I had just finished nodding my head in agreement to some point someone made when my phone rang for the third time in a row. It was my brother in law. “He doesn’t typically ring me multiple times,” I thought. I got up from the table, walked away, and answered. He immediately shouted into the phone, “We’ve got a cat!”. This was only the second time in my life I had the opportunity of a Mountain Lion sighting.
I reluctantly returned to the meeting, feeling like it would never end. When it finally did, I sprinted to my truck, gathered my spotting gear – binoculars, spotting scope, and my camera – and was on my way. Driving was somewhat treacherous since we were in the midst of a winter storm, and I had to remind myself to slow down because I wasn’t going to see “the cat” if I was in the ditch.
When I swung into the Maverick gas station parking lot about 10:45 AM (where the cat had last been spotted from), to my surprise, no one seemed to be aware of the sighting; everyone was just doing typical gas station stuff, filling tanks and lugging honey buns and coffee to cars. I pulled in, found a spot where I thought I could get a look, and pulled up the photo my brother in law had shared which had a diagram of “the cat’s” whereabouts. I matched up the slope and junipers with my view looking across South Park Loop Rd and found the juniper “the cat” was hiding in the photo. I stepped out of my truck, pulled up my binos, and boom! I was staring into the piercing and wildly exotic looking eyes of an adult female mountain lion. Quickly, I flung open my back door and grabbed the spotting scope. Once the scope had rested on the cat, I got a more zoomed in look and exclaimed out loud and to myself I guess, “Holy moly!”. This was incredible, and I was standing in gas station parking lot; crazy.
The first person that approached me was a guy in a plow truck, “you checking out some deer or something?”
“No, actually, I’m looking at a mountain lion,” I said.
He looked puzzled. I waved him to my scope, he parked and came over, “No way!”
This went on for a while, and in no time at all, there were probably seventy-five people viewing this lion from the gas station parking lot. All were impressed, many were amazed, and everyone was having a good time. This was a truly rare and incredibly cool opportunity to view the most elusive large predator that resides in Jackson Hole.
This experience illuminates the reason I live here and guide people through the national parks, and why Jackson Hole is a truly unique and special place. Jackson Hole is located squarely in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, arguably the largest, most pristine, and wildest chunk of intact ecosystem in the lower 48. It is truly special and all the large mammals that lived here prior to human settlement, they are here today. That can’t be said for most of the country or even the world this day and age. Not only do we live alongside an incredible wildlife resource but incredibly beautiful mountains and landscapes, geologic features, and amazing outdoor recreation. This story of a female mountain lion surviving the harsh winter within the town limits of Jackson, WY further illustrates the connection one can have to the wild world while living or visiting here. Of course living alongside such wildlife requires a responsible citizenry so as to co-exist as well as possible, but it is what makes this place special. I can think of nowhere else in the U.S. I would rather be. I hope this story gives you a sense for the passion I have for this place, and my desire to share it with everyone.
In summation, Bob Weir puts it best in his song Cottonwood Lullaby.
“And goodnight wide Wyoming
If that’s still where we are
But if we’ve wandered into heaven
Well Jackson Hole’s not that far”
Welcome to the naturalist department at Spring Creek Ranch! We specialize in the wildlife and natural history of this region and offer year-round excursions into our surrounding national parks. Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks are both outstanding for...
Welcome to the naturalist department at Spring Creek Ranch! We specialize in the wildlife and natural history of this region and offer year-round excursions...Learn More
Yellowstone Wolf and Bear! Join an experienced naturalist to learn about and search for the most charismatic predators in North America in the most famous National Park in the world, Yellowstone. In spring, Yellowstone is teeming with wildlife and...
Yellowstone Wolf and Bear! Join an experienced naturalist to learn about and search for the most charismatic predators in North America in the most...Learn More