The Jackson Hole Wildlife Foundation is reminding the public that its annual moose count will be taking place around the valley Saturday morning.
Headed by the foundation, “Moose Day” is a valleywide census that helps wildlife managers understand what’s happening with moose in areas that can be difficult for the area’s limited number of professional biologists to access and assess.
“You may see cars creeping down roads and people peering through binoculars,” volunteer coordinator Frances Clark said in a statement. “These are Nature Mappers, often your neighbors, counting moose in areas where professional biologists rarely survey: downtown Jackson, the buttes and subdivisions valley-wide.”
Because of the added commotion on roads Saturday morning, the foundation is urging motorists to be careful.
Moose Day is not open to the general public, and involves trained citizen scientists and biologists from Grand Teton National Park, the Bridger-Teton National Forest, National Elk Refuge and Teton Science Schools.
Foundation executive director Cory Hatch said this week he’s not seeking any more animal spotters for this year’s Moose Day.
“All those slots are filled,” he said.
In future years, however, Hatch urged people to take the training offered through Nature Mapping Jackson Hole so that they could be eligible to take part in the count.
Jackson Hole moose numbers have fallen dramatically since the early 1980s, when the population was estimated at 6,500. It’s now believed to be nearer 500.
“The Moose Day count helps give wildlife managers a better idea of what’s happening with our local moose population,” Hatch said. “Understanding these trends is the first step toward conserving this iconic species in Jackson Hole.”
On the 2014 Moose Day — which fell on a day the snow was flying and the counting was tough — just 74 moose were seen by moose spotters.
But by other measures, Jackson Hole’s moose turned a corner in 2014.
Figuring in an aerial Wyoming Game and Fish Department count, overall numbers were up. And the ratio of calves observed per cow was also on the rise for at least the third year in a row, which means the herd is becoming more successful in reproducing.
For the first time this year Moose Day will be held outside of Jackson Hole. A citizen scientist group known as WyoBio will tally moose in the Laramie area the same day.