Within 20 minutes of adjusting the wire fencing to allow for easy migration, the crew watched three mule deer move through the area.
It’s as though the animals are waiting, Kyle Kissock said, “biding their time in the brush.”
It’s not uncommon to see the animals the fence projects are intended to help appear shortly after the crew is cleaning up for the day. A few weeks ago, pronghorn were spotted moving through an area of recently removed fence line in Pinedale.
“It’s the same satisfaction you get from a project like mowing the lawn,” he said. “You can look back and see your progress.”
These sorts of moments get Kissock excited about his new job, communications manager of the Jackson Hole Wildlife Foundation. His main responsibilities are to recruit volunteers and get the word out about the nonprofit’s goings-on, but as part of a three-person staff, he also goes into the field when called upon.
To be honest, time in the outdoors is what brought him to the Tetons in the first place. It’s cliche, he knows, but he’s always kept a special place in his heart for the West.
Kissock grew up in Dayton, Ohio, but frequently traveled west to Wyoming and Colorado, visiting his parents’ hometown of Fort Collins on summer and winter breaks. His dad taught him to fish young, and he’s always been interested in rocks, though he was never the type of kid to collect them.
“I was more interested in the stories the rocks told than the individual rocks,” he said. “You can learn a lot about one rock, but I like the whole story, the story of a mountain range, the story of how a whole continent forms.
“I also like how geology is tied to ecology — geology really drives ecology in some ways.”
The fascination led him to a master’s degree in geology at the University of Iowa, and then back to the Tetons, where he spent a summer as a field educator for Teton Science Schools.
Before his gig at the Wildlife Foundation, he worked as a fisheries technician and lent a hand to cutthroat trout research in Grand Teton National Park. He also may be recognizable as the face of the Aquatic Invasive Species inspection tents, where he was one of the employees checking watercraft for invasive species.
His new role has thrown different challenges at him. The most notable, he said, is social media.
“I’ve had to learn Instagram for the first time, which before I took this job I swore I’d never do Instagram,” the 27-year-old said.
He’s also getting a feel for how many organizations the foundation deals with — donors, volunteers, state and local agencies, other nonprofits.
“There have been a lot of names so far,” he said.
The job offers a lot of flexibility for time outside, be it on the clock or after, which allows Kissock to get back to his roots. He’s long been a fisherman, having learned at age 6, and spent time studying brook trout while completing his bachelor’s in environmental geology at Bucknell University in central Pennsylvania.
Granted, brook trout are less of an exciting catch in waters where they’re considered invasive. But it doesn’t take the enjoyment out of fishing, which Kissock said is really just an excuse for a hike.
“I like fly-fishing in areas that are off the beaten path,” he said. “I use fishing as a way to explore and get to know the backcountry.”
When he’s not casting he’s keeping an eye out for birds or other wildlife; in the fall and winter he’s heavy into Fantasy Football or a good book — his latest read, “Last Child in the Woods” by Richard Louv, about children losing access to wild spaces.
“That’s one thing we have here,” he said. “We have the outdoors.”
Part of his passion relates well to the foundation’s latest undertaking, pushing to cut wildlife-vehicle collisions through a multipronged attack of education, signage and wildlife crossings.
One of his first days in the office a moose was struck and killed on Highway 390.
“We get a lot of phone calls about animals that are hurt or animals that have been hit,” he said. “They are really tough phone calls to take. You realize in this job how many animals are hit and killed on the roads here. It’s a lot.”
On the bright side, conversations about the problem are starting to morph into solutions — and Kissock is excited to be a part of the team helping to drive the action.
“We’re making progress,” he said. “Every year we’re getting more signs up. Every year we’re getting more solutions.”