Bears in the skin track.
For those that havenâ€™t been paying attention, there has been a major influx of grizzly bears into the southern end of Grand Teton National Park in the past few months. Why they are down here is anyoneâ€™s guess, but I would think the gut piles from dead elk (yeah, hunters can slaughter majestic elk right from the side of the road in GTNP, yet the elk are fed all winter long just a few miles south at the National Elk Refugeâ€¦donâ€™t get me started on that one) have something to do with it.
Most recently, reports of grizzly sightings near the Death Canyon, Granite Canyon and Bradley Lake Trailheads, as-well-as up and down the Moose-Wilson Road and Jenny Lake, have kept backcountry and XC skiers on their toes, and have prompted park officials to randomly close access to the Death Canyon Trailhead. This has perturbed me enough that I inquired with GTNP about when, and where, we can expect these critters to finally go to sleep for the winter, so we can have our playground back.
Any idea where the Moose/Wilson road closure is located coming in from the north?
Can we access the normal winter parking at Death Canyon?
Not yet, Steve. We’ve had intermittent closures on the Moose-Wilson Road (at the Murie Ranch Road junction) due to bear activity and the concern for the protection of bears, as well as public safety. We keep the road closed to vehicle traffic until we don’t see any bear activity for two days. We just had a sow grizzly with two cubs walk right down the length of the M-W Road on Monday. She eventually came into the CTDVC parking lot and walked right across the west terrace of the VC on her way to the Snake River bottoms.
Because these closures are intermittent and sporadic, we aren’t putting out news releases every time we open or close the road. Right now, the road is closed to vehicles again.
When bear activity subsides, we will open the M-W Road for winter access to Death Canyon Road. Sorry that I can’t be more definitive. It’s a fluid situation right now and we’re maintaining the closure to vehicle use.
BTW, you can walk/hike the road; it’s only closed to vehicle traffic. I would definitely carry bear spray and be very alert for bears! We’ve had numerous sightings and not just the #399 and #610 moms with their cubs.
It’s a brave new world with grizzlies and other bears in and around areas not previously used by so many bruins. It has definitely changed how we must manage road areas and other locations.
Public Affairs Officer
Grand Teton National Park
Is there anyway to know where (general vicinity) those M-W Road bears end up going/hibernating?
There is some talk amongst us skiers wondering what would happen if they decided to den right next to the traditional access routes into the mountains this winter.
I understand that a bear was recently discovered in a backcountry cave that skiers sometimes use near the JHMR. Don’t know if this is true, but there is definitely a risk that backcountry skiers may have to yield to hibernating bears this year.
The grizzlies that have been roaming Grand Teton NP seem to be slowing down a bit, and may soon den up. Steve Cain tells me that they rarely use the same dens as years before, so your guess is as good as ours about where these bears and their young may end up for winter’s sleep.
#399 has often pushed the limit with hibernating and she generally doesn’t hunker in until about mid December. Don’t know about the other grizzlies (#610 and her 3 cubs, plus we have yet another mother with two cubs that showed up just last week). There are apparently more grizzlies using the park as part of their home range than even this summer!
I’ll try to keep you posted when I learn about whether bears are definitely in their dens. In the meantime, maybe you can find out more about the JHMR cave with denning bear in it? It’s just new rumor that we heard and not sure whether it’s true or not.
Public Affairs Officer
Grand Teton National Park
So, from the response, it sounds as though we still have 3 big grizzlies with cubs in the area now, and 2-3 more weeks of random trailhead access closures. (I knowâ€¦itâ€™s for my own protection, right?) To add to the grizzly story, the comment Jackie Skaggs makes about the bear denning in a â€œwarming caveâ€ at JHMR is rather interesting and could be a pretty big surprise for someone crawling inside looking to get â€œwarmâ€.
Iâ€™ve been asking around about the location of this rumored bear at JHMR and either people are being tight-lipped about it, or there is not much info going around about it. But, from what Iâ€™ve learned so far, it sounds as though the cave in which this bear has took up residence is located in the Crags area.
Anyway, since the bears have been allowed to have free reign of the Moose-Wilson Road area for the last few months, not to mention an easy meal due to the elk gut-piles around every corner, Iâ€™m sure this grizzly situation in the Southern Tetons isnâ€™t going away anytime soon. My guess is that they will be down here next spring and fall as well, if not the entire summer. But hey, as long as I can shoot my elk from the comfort of my own truckâ€¦who cares!