Each spring we laud the return of longer days, warmer weather and melting snow.
An annual sigh of relief rings throughout the region. Songs spill through newly budding aspens as birds migrate back to the valley. Paw prints crater across crusty snow as hibernating animals emerge from winter dens.
While humans shake off cabin fever and bask in the transition — soaking up sunshine here or on a distant beach — wildlife still face peril. Ungulates, especially deer, elk and moose, have little energy to spare as they wait for the green-up that follows retreating snow and ice. Their reserves are depleted after months of wallowing through deep snow, moving miles between water and shelter, weathering storms, evading predators, not to mention dodging vehicles.
Deer wander the sidewalks and streets of Jackson, foraging between yards in search of scarce blades of green grass. Moose sport mangy coats as they canvass backyards for a low-hanging snack.
We are still weeks from the return of plentiful green foliage after spring rains and sunshine. For winter-weakened young, old and ill animals, death may ultimately come during early spring.
Now is the time for humans to offer an extra dose of respect to our wild neighbors to see them through to summer.
Whether you bump into critters in your backyard or while wildlife watching on public lands, give the animals an extra-wide berth. Slow down, especially at dawn and dusk, when driving through areas where wildlife migrate. Keep your dogs leashed and under control to avoid chasing already stressed species. And for all the reasons wildlife managers give, don’t feed wildlife. It causes real harm, from sickening animals due to unnatural changes in diet to habituating them in ways that put both wildlife and humans at risk.
The News&Guide editorial board has long celebrated wildlife and advocated respect for our natural resources. Inside these pages our reporters and columnists chronicle our community’s decades-long challenge to continually find better ways to coexist with wildlife in one of the last, relatively intact temperate-zone ecosystems on Earth.
In keeping with that tradition, Field Notes returns to our Valley section this week, with a compilation of wildlife sightings and advice from volunteers on the lookout for sure signs of spring. The tradition grows from a seed planted by Bert Raynes, Jackson Hole’s very own Lorax, who first started compiling community observations from bird-watchers and nature lovers in his beloved Far Afield column.
Let’s be like Bert by doing our best to live peacefully and respectfully alongside wildlife. They are the true valley locals.