web analytics

Wildlife Brigade Part II – Animal Jams and Dispatch Calls

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. 

Occasionally, jams are calm enough that we have time to chat and answer visitor’s questions about the animals they are watching
although I almost never saw the grizzly mom and cubs, it was a lovely day for an animal jam
an intimate jam observing a female grizzly nurse her cubs (bear at the treeline on right)

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.

folks settle in at a ‘hoping-for-a-bear’ jam

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.

a park visitor shared this video with the brigade, showing folks way too close to moose

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.

care to guess which path is Squirrel Alley?

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.

The elk visitors nicknamed “Hollywood” seems to like to have his picture taken. He is famous for letting people get close for pictures and then charging them. (I don’t mean money) When the rut begins, he will charge anything, including cars and stop signs.

Remove a family of raccoons that moved into an RV.

Members of the brigade trapped a family of raccoons that had taken up residence in an RV, and took them to a rehabber for eventual release.

Find out if the fox hanging around a campground has a den nearby.

We gave the coordinates to the professionals so they could determine next steps.

Determine if a baby owl was injured.

Assess a chipmunk “behaving oddly.”

A park employee spotted this chipmunk behaving oddly and asked Wildlife Brigade to have a look at it. After consulting the small mammal ranger for the park, it was determined that the chipmunk appeared to be ill (staggered) and so we relocated the poor thing into the woods away from the trail to allow mother nature to take her course.

Capture a domestic cat discovered hanging around a historic cabin.

One of our seasonal rangers collecting a lost cat that has been hanging around a historic cabin, and bringing it to a local shelter.

Haze a bear that is lingering too close to buildings.

Escort a bear or moose through a developed area.

a moose browsing through a housing development

We’ve even had traffic congestion over foxes, coyotes, ruffed grouse, and blue herons. 

Ruffed-grouse crossing the road

You can begin to see why the public thinks we are experts on all of the creatures in the park! 

image_pdfMake a PDFimage_printPrint this page

One thought on “Wildlife Brigade Part II – Animal Jams and Dispatch Calls

  1. Wow, this requires patience and forbearance (forBEARance 😂). I applaud you and Dave for dealing so well with the public!

Tell us what's on your mind!

%d bloggers like this: