Winter has arrived in Grand Teton National Park – an excellent time for recreation in the snow but also a challenging time for wildlife in and around the Tetons. Wildlife biologists are asking visitors to avoid disturbing animals by following all winter closures and voluntarily avoiding bighorn sheep winter zones. In all other areas of the park, visitors should give wildlife plenty of space by maintaining 100 yards from bears and wolves, and 25 yards from other animals. Visitors can safely enjoy watching wildlife by being respectful of their need for space, staying clear of their sensitive habitats, allowing them to maintain their vital energy reserves.
Conserving energy is especially important for wildlife as temperatures plummet, snow buries food and travel is difficult. Animals like bighorn sheep, bison, deer, elk and moose survive the winter by using the least amount of energy so they can maintain fat reserves, which is especially crucial for females to successfully produce young in the spring.
Stress from winter recreation poses a significant threat to bighorn sheep and can push these iconic animals toward starvation as they endure brutal winters high in the Teton Range. “The park is asking skiers and snowboarders to voluntarily avoid sensitive bighorn sheep winter habitat, give sheep space and help us conserve these animals by spreading the word,” said Chip Jenkins, superintendent of Grand Teton National Park.
A georeferenced map of bighorn sheep winter zones is available for download at tetonsheep.org. Areas closed to the public to protect important ungulate winter range include:
Summits of Mount Hunt, Prospectors Mountain and Static Peak: Dec. 1 through Apr. 30
Areas around the Snake River, Buffalo Fork River and Kelly Hill: Dec. 15 through Mar. 31
Northern portion of Blacktail Butte (the open slopes on the southwest side of Blacktail Butte and the Practice Rocks climbing area at the northern tip of the butte remain open): Dec. 15 through Apr. 30
Wolff Ridge and a portion of the Spread Creek drainage: Dec. 15 through Apr. 30
Visit go.nps.gov/tetonclosures for more information about park closures.
Limited services and seasonal closures make a winter visit very different from a summer experience. Plan ahead, recreate responsibly, promote stewardship and help ensure this iconic landscape and wildlife can be enjoyed by future generations.