Spring is a special time of year in the Tetons. As temperatures warm through the month of May, cottonwoods begin to bloom, and morel mushrooms grace the valley floor. Ospreys and eagles patrol the rivers and pelicans appear in search of fish on their migratory routes. Spring is a time of new life and newborn bison, moose, and other ungulates may be seen taking their first steps in this small slice of paradise. Black and brown bears have emerged from their dens. Coyotes, wolves, and mountain lions reclaim their hunting grounds, and curious fox can be seen inspecting nature’s playground.
This is a prime time of year for families and friends to reconnect with nature and wildlife in the Tetons. This wonderland demands the utmost respect and as we explore these wild places we must remember that we are in someone else’s home. National park and other public land employees do their best to set rules that allow safe exploration of these areas for both the local inhabitants and visitors alike. However, the true care and respect for this place lies in the hands of each individual. Wildlife should be viewed from a respectful distance keeping in mind that we would ask the same respect in our own homes. Interfering with natural processes or stressed out wildlife can be detrimental to the very paradise that we are seeking to enjoy and reconnect with. Also keep in mind animals are often more afraid of you than you are of them, and that they act accordingly. A frightened animal will protect itself and its young at all costs.
Since the parks have opened this year there have been multiple incidents involving uneducated visitors and wildlife. A baby bison was put into a car in Yellowstone for fear that it was cold. This bison was abandoned by it’s herd for unknown reasons and was eventually euthanize by park officials. A family near Shoshone, WY put an adolescent antelope into their car for fear that it would be hit by another vehicle. Pictures showed the antelope in the lap of a woman with a dog near by.
Contact with humans and domesticated animals can mean that an animal will be abandoned and struggle to survive on it’s own. Another incident occurred near the west entrance of Yellowstone where a woman was dangerously close to an elk. The woman was warned by a wildlife tour guide too late, she was charged by the elk and tripped while fleeing. The elk stopped short when she fell, this was definitely a lucky close call.
Be sure to educate yourself about proper respectful behavior and how to handle yourself in the event that you surprise or frighten an animal. Wearing bear bells and vocally alerting animals to your presence through conversation or singing keeps travel in wild places safe for everyone. Carrying bear spray in the event of a surprise encounter is a healthy suggestion and should only be used in extreme circumstances. Be sure to be informed on when and how to properly use bear spray. Be Gone Bear Spray is offering $9 dollar vouchers for guests of Black Dog Raft Company.