coyote, elk, Grand Teton National Park, Greater Yellowstone ecosystem, Jackson Hole, Jackson WY, John D Rockefeller Memorial Parkway, moose, Natural Habitat, trumpeter swan, wolf, Yellowstone National Park, |National Museum of Wildlife Art
USA 2018, (5) Jackson Hole, morning. Some years previously, I had seen a series of programmes on the BBC about Yellowstone National Park through the year. And ever since then I had wanted to visit in the winter – all that snow and beauty principally, but with great wildlife as well. In the month before I actually left on this trip, there had been a further series of BBC programmes on the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem, following particular creatures through the year, and dealing also with the extraordinary geology of the place. These programmes provided a wonderful pre-trip briefing.
Jackson Hole (hole in effect means valley in this context) is at the southern end of Grand Teton National Park, itself just to the south of Yellowstone National Park, the two joined by a small area called the John D Rockefeller Jr Memorial Parkway.
We had an early start on Friday 16th February. This was the view from my hotel window as I rose. Given the attraction of the deep piles of snow I had seen on those BBC programmes, I confess to having been a little disappointed, even as I was being driven from the airport the previous day, that there was not more of it, and this feeling persisted through this day. (Following days more than compensated!)
At the start of the trip the 14 of us – all American bar me – travelled in two of these Sprinter vans, each of us with a window seat. Our Natural Habitat leaders were Drew and Jeremy.
Our first stop in the Grand Teton NP was to look at the surroundings, and particularly at a couple of trumpeter swans, initially curled up and asleep in the icy water. It was not easy to get a decent photo through the wire. What’s this? A wolf already? No, a coyote – but an interesting sighting nevertheless. (I just had to stop calling them jackals.)
We drove to the parking lot of the National Museum of Wildlife Art and stood for ages looking at this view.
Some managed to see as a far off speck a wolf. The leaders swore it was so, and I believe them. They were giving a particular telegraph pole as a reference point but I think I must have been concentrating on the wrong one. Actually, right at the end, I do believe I saw the wolf for five seconds, barely that, as it ran behind the buildings – but I certainly didn’t manage to get a photo of it.
We drove on to a pond. Here we saw, but I got no decent photos of, goldeneye, bufflehead, gadwall, and a bald eagle. As we drove on, wolf tracks were spied. We had stopped by the side of a river, where we were delighted to see a moose, browsing on willow, its favourite food. Moose (called elk in British English, explanation here, which leaves me even more confused) are far from rare, but you do not see them every day.
Our next stop again caused ripples of excitement as we thought we might be seeing a wolf, and it took a long time before it was agreed that it was ‘only’ a coyote. It appeared to have a broken jaw, but seemed to be managing to survive OK, unless of course the injury had only just happened.
Returning towards Jackson, we stopped when we saw more moose, which came very close to us in our vans, and crossed the road right by us. Lunch was taken in the restaurant of the National Museum of Wildlife Art, which we would tour in the afternoon.