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One of the characteristic signs of spring happens to be the annual migration of large animals from their winter range. With the arrival of warmer weather and the resulting snow melt, elk and bison are now migrating from the National Elk Refuge toward their traditional summer ranges in Grand Teton National Park and surrounding national forests. Consequently, motorists should be alert for wildlife on the move and drive with extra caution during the coming weeks.
Herds of elk and bison are again crossing park roads, especially Highway 26/89/191, and wandering near roadsides. They often move during low light conditions and generally are most active between dusk and dawn. Moose can be found browsing in both the sagebrush flats and riparian areas such as the Gros Ventre River and Buffalo Fork of the Snake River just south of Moran Junction. Mule deer, wolves, bears and other animals may also be encountered on or near park roads, and pronghorn antelope will soon make their way back to Jackson Hole.
Animals are typically weakened from the rigors of a Jackson Hole winter and may be forced to use precious energy when startled or disturbed by the presence of vehicles and humans on foot or bicycle. Visitors and local residents should keep their distance from all wildlife, maintaining a distance of 100 yards from bears or wolves and 25 yards from other wildlife, including nesting birds. Public closures are now in effect near sage grouse leks throughout the park. Those who visit these areas must obey the posted closures to reduce disturbance to sage grouse using their traditional mating arenas. Wildlife protection closures will be in place for the next 4-6 weeks while birds are present.
Motorists are advised to drive the posted speed limit and be prepared to stop suddenly when animals cross the road unexpectedly. Driving slower than indicated speed limits, especially at night, can increase the margin of safety. Collisions between motor vehicles and wildlife may result in severe damage to the vehicle, serious or fatal injuries to occupants of that vehicle, and/or death for the animal involved.
Although it may be a cliché, spring migration is a critical time to give wildlife a brake!
Last updated: February 24, 2015