What a day today turned out to be! I woke up this morning to clear western skies here in Idaho. The Lemhi Mountains stood out above the plains as crisp and clear as if they were a hundred miles closer. Low, dark clouds crowded the eastern horizon, but after weeks and months of snow and clouds, I wanted to try the Tetons regardless. Deep down I hoped the clouds would break and those beautiful rugged peaks would show.
It didn't take long to realize my hopes were in vain. Sheets of snow fell across the high hills and peaks of Swan Valley. The pass over to Victor was passable, but visibility ranged from 1/4 mile to less. Teton Valley was no better, and the pass to Jackson, more treacherous. Instead of rugged peaks, I found fog and snow. The weather felt no different than it would on a Wednesday in January.
To my surprise, 5 moose fed and rested in the trees adjacent to the roundabout at Gros Ventre junction. Already 5! I was amazed and hopeful for the rest of the trip. What made these appearances more rare, was the time of day I found them. I had made it to Jackson a little past noon. Most moose, and other wildlife, rest during midday, only coming out during the mornings and evenings. With the poor weather conditions, and lack of abundant people around the park, I assume the wild game felt more comfortable foraging throughout the day.
My drive took my up to Kelly and near Mormon Row where I found 4 more moose and a skunk. Elk were present on the preserve in Jackson, though I didn't make the drive out there to photograph them. From Kelly, I returned to the roundabout to find 8 more moose on the west end of the junction. This time, they were within 50 ft. of the road, and provided incredible subjects to capture through my 500mm lens. I drove north, after speaking with a local reporter, to look for bear. The males leave their dens in mid-April, whereas the females with cubs will leave their cozy homes in May. Bear-399 (who I photographed in May 2021) is anxiously awaited to emerge. She will break records if she emerges with cubs at the age of 27 (quite old for a grizzly, especially while still producing a litter). No bear graced my presence today, but 2 coyotes, 1 fox, another skunk, and several elk appeared in clearings, on the edge of the forest, and on the open plains.
I renewed my annual park pass ($80 for the year, otherwise it is $35/car each time you go) then headed back to Jackson as the weather soured and snow began to obscure the world around me. The moose at the roundabout were nowhere to be found on my return trip. They cover a lot of ground while on the move. I was fortunate to spend half an hour with them when I did. My drive home was relatively uneventful. Many bird of prey soared over head and nested in the trees along the Snake and its tributaries. I identified Bald Eagles, Osprey, Vultures, Falcons, Hawks, Ravens, and more. Fall Creek Falls in Swan Valley was roaring over the low cliffs above the Snake. Runoff this year is expected to be high leading to potential region-wide flooding.
Stay safe out there! Respect these beautiful animals, give them their space. Be mindful of potential flooding and standing water, it is likely deeper than expected. Spring is here, and the summer is on its way, I promise!
Enjoy a few pictures from today!