From the emergence in early March of male grizzly bears, through the elk and moose rut of the fall, until the last bear heads for their den in December, the animals of the park keep the Wildlife Brigade working seven days a week, from dawn until dark.
Jams of All Sizes
We may find ourselves working jams alongside paved or dirt roads. Jams of a few cars to jams of over a hundred cars. Jams may be fast moving, covering over a mile of roadway and a busy intersection when bears are foraging or trying to find a place to cross. Jams may be quiet, almost reverent, as visitors watch a momma grizzly nurse her young cubs through spotting scopes.
Jams in All Weathers
Brigade members find themselves working in temperatures from the 20’s to the 90’s, in blowing snow, stinging hail, pelting rain, or beating sun. During one jam in early May, I remember being a tad put out with a female grizzly bear, as we stood roadside for over three hours while she foraged and then laid down to take a nap, the wind howling and blowing wet, stinging snow into our faces. If she had only chosen to be a bear on the other side of the road, we could have stood our vigil with the snow at our backs!
Jams Without Animals
Hope jams pop up when visitors think they know where an animal will next appear, and are hoping that if they wait long enough they will get great pictures of it. These kind of jams can last anywhere from an hour to the better part of a day.
Jams Without Cars
Not all jams involve vehicles. We are called when people are too close to animals near a trailhead such as these sleeping bears, ten feet off a trail.
These folks told me with a straight face that they thought the cones were to stop cars from going up the trail. They really should learn: wild animals prefer naps without paparazzi, and park staff are not as gullible as visitors assume.
Or folks surrounding an animal like this moose that was trying to leave the river.
Know Where to Go
Learning the layout of built-up areas such as the visitor centers, campgrounds, and other popular “front-country” spots, including the names for places that are not labeled on visitor maps is essential for all brigade members. For example, when you call for backup, brigaders know the pathway called “Squirrel Alley” is near the developed area of Jenny Lake. Some place names are almost an inside joke — for example, “Fisherman’s Pond” has no fish, and the snow melt water in it lasts just until July, but it is an excellent reference point on a long stretch of road through the pine forest.
Calls for Wildlife Brigade Assistance
The largest mammals seen from the road are the animals we most commonly work with during the season: black and grizzly bears of course, as well as moose, elk, pronghorn, and sometimes bison.
You might be surprised by the other requests for wildlife brigade attention that dispatch will call us for. Such as:
Babysit a moose next to the headquarters building. There is no moving a moose out of a developed area. All we can do is monitor it and prevent folks from getting too close until it moves on.
Break up a crowd at the laundromat, too close to a family of foxes.
Monitor bull elk bluff charging people.
Remove a family of raccoons that moved into an RV.
Find out if the fox hanging around a campground has a den nearby.
Determine if a baby owl was injured.
Assess a chipmunk “behaving oddly.”
Capture a domestic cat discovered hanging around a historic cabin.
Haze a bear that is lingering too close to buildings.
Escort a bear or moose through a developed area.
We’ve even had traffic congestion over foxes, coyotes, ruffed grouse, and blue herons.
You can begin to see why the public thinks we are experts on all of the creatures in the park!