Introducing… Our Interpretive Specialist

Interpretive Specialist Don Wells
Interpretive Specialist Don Wells

 

“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over civilized peoples are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity, and that Mountain Parks and Reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life.”

-John Muir 1901

Muir’s words captivate GTLC Interpretive Specialist Don Wells. Wells believes our National Parks are a splendor everyone should experience.

Born and raised in California, Wells has explored many of our nation’s parks from Kings Canyon to Yellowstone to the Grand Canyon.

While attending college in California, Don and his wife Joyce would spend weekends traveling to Yosemite, Sequoia, Kings Canyon, and other California natural wonders. 

“One crisp fall Saturday morning while at Sequoia National Park, we walked up to the information kiosk to get some hiking guides, only to find my biology professor standing in uniform behind the counter,” recalled Wells.

What a surprise and amazing ensuing conversation.  “From that chance visit, a seed was planted that if we ever had the opportunity in our professional lives to take time and travel, experience, and revel in our park system, do it,” said Wells.  “That seed sat dormant for over 25 years.  Eventually the conditions were just right and that seed germinated – and here we are.  Five National Parks later, we find ourselves in the Grand Tetons working with GTLC – what an adventure!”

While Wells always carried a passion for the parks, in 2007 he was introduced to the concept of interpretation at the Grand Canyon south rim. He was transferred to Yellowstone to receive specific training from the National Association of Interpretation to become a Certified Interpretive Guide. Wells was approached by GTLC in 2008 to become their Interpretive Specialist, but had a prior commitment and joined the company in 2009.

Wells is an encyclopedia of knowledge on the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and Jackson Hole. He offers his wisdom on interpretive walks and shuttle tours. 

When not marveling in the midst of a National Park, Wells is spending some time at his Nevada City, California home.  He finds himself engaged in his hobbies of bicycling, hiking, fishing, kayaking, snowshoeing, skiing, running, and photography.
 
“Joyce and I, not once but twice, have spent a week riding our tandem bicycle, over 500 miles, across the state of Iowa with 10,000 of our closest friends,” said Wells, speaking of the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI)  event.

A man of many interests, Wells continues to share stories of science and nature in Grand Teton National Park. It’s not about informing the guests, but interacting and having a conversation. Wells does have one suggestion for park visitors. “Come early and stay a while!” Certinaly advice worth considering, as it is near impossible to absorb all that the Park has to offer.

New Life in the Park

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Spring fever is raising temperatures and melting the snow in Grand Teton National Park. The season is in full swing, as new life joins us in the Park. Herds are beginning their migration from lower winter feeding grounds to higher summer grounds and females are beginning to give birth, providing the opportunity to observe and study Mother Nature at her finest. 

Below is a breakdown for understanding the process of life for some of our larger mammal populations in the Park:

 
Moose:

As the male moose emits a deep, grunting call, his rutting season begins in September and extends into October.  Bulls guard their right to mate through intimidation and fights.  Around mid-May to early June, one or two calves are born to the cows and will remain close, weaned in winter or the following spring.

Bison:

Showing dominance through bellowing, wallowing, and fighting, bull bison mate in late July and August.  During rut, one bull will remain with one female until she is ready to mate.  One calf will be born in late April and May and may be suckled through its second winter.  Calves are able to keep up with the herd soon after birth.

Elk:

The cool fall air from August to mid-October echoes with the bugling of mature bull elk, signaling their rut season.  Bulls equipped with mature antlers, guard their opportunity to mate with their harem through aggressive intimidation and fights.  One calf will be born the following spring from May to June, and weaned in 4-5 weeks.

Grizzly Bear:

Usually having several partners, the male grizzly (boar) will mate from May to early June.  Mother Nature delays the implantation of the embryo to assure the female (sow) to reach the den and assure chances for a successful birth.  Entering the den beginning in mid-October, normally, one to three cubs will be born between January and February, during hibernation.  Female and cubs generally emerge from the den beginning in April.  A mature female will usually breed every three years after chasing off the previous young, to protect them from attacks from the mating boar. 

Black Bear:

Usually having several partners, the male black bear (boar) will mate from May to early June.  Mother Nature delays the implantation of the embryo to assure the females chances for a successful birth.  Entering the den beginning in November, normally, one to three cubs will be born between January and February, during hibernation.  Female and cubs generally emerge from the den beginning in March.  The cubs normally winter with their mother and are weaned the following September.  A mature female will usually breed in alternate years. 

Each morning, I peer through the windows of the upper lobby of Jackson Lake Lodge to observe the expanse of nature surrounding us. Not far from where I stand, elk and moose cows are migrating to Willow Flats to give spring birth.  What a fulfilling sight to experience Mother Nature’s wonder.  As these populations assemble, so do others.  We are beginning to observe the gathering of wolves and grizzly bears. Spring calves provide an ample food source for predators and this season will be no different.  By visiting, you are experiencing part of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, one of the largest intact temperate-zone ecosystems on Earth today.  We invite you to come and witness this spectacle for yourself.

 

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Seeking a great resource on information about the seasonal timeline of our Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, which encompasses Grand Teton National Park? “For Everything There Is A Season,” by Dr. Frank C. Craighead, Jr., Ph.D., provides a wonderful outline of what a year entails here.

 
Posted from Don’s Corner ~ GTLC Interpretive Specialist