Awesome Autumn Deals!

If you are looking for somewhere to go for a fall holiday, now is the time to book!  You will find a spectacular last-chance vacation getaway by combining our special $145/night Elk Lovers Excursion package with a cheap “Autumn Adventure” Fare from www.United.com

photo by Ernst Mutchnick
photo by Ernst Mutchnick

In addition to Grand Teton National Park’s colorful foliage, a popular fall activity is witnessing the unique sounds of elk during the annual rutting season.  The bull elk’s bugle starts as a low whistling sound that builds and culminates into the high-pitched sound of a flute.  The bugle lets other elk know that the bull has staked claim to a territory and a harem.  In preparation for the winter season, elk herds can be found in abundance migrating through the Park toward their winter home near the town of Jackson, making it prime elk-watching season.

Jackson Lake Lodge’s Elk Lovers Excursion package is valid from September 4 (Labor Day weekend) through September 27, 2009 for new bookings only, and is based on space availability for single or double occupancy.  The $145 nightly rate for Elk Lover’s Excursion includes a welcome amenity and is exclusive of tax, gratuities, and incidental charges.  Use of a private car is recommended in order to enhance the overall elk experience, and transportation is not included in the package. Advance reservations are required and can be made by calling 800-628-9988.

Check out United’s “Autumn Adventure Sale” under Special Deals on www.united.com.   Act fast as tickets must be purchase no later than Monday September 7th.

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From Winter to Summer Homes

 

Elk Migrating Across the Inner Park Road
Elk Migrating Across the Inner Park Road

“Imagine…no roads, no buildings, and no electricity – land as far as the eye can see – jagged mountains on the east and west horizons – and big game dotting the valley floor. The year is 1850, the air is crisp, and the snow blankets the valley.  Elk surround you, their breath condensing in the air.  Some are resting, some are chewing their cud, and others are browsing on nearby shrubs.”

  -Adapted from “A Legacy of Conservation,” published by the National Elk Refuge, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

 

 In a few short years, there will be a prominent human presence and the elk herd will see great change.  The homestead act of 1862 brought permanent settlers and by the early 1900’s they finally discovered the valley and converted wildlife habitat to livestock range. 

The once safe winter range became perilous.  As the migration of humans moved west, estimated elk numbers of 10 million dropped to 50,000 by the early 1900s.  One of the largest remaining herds wintered in Jackson Hole.  With homesteaders tilling elk migration paths, the community of Jackson blocking 75% of elk winter range, and excessive hunting and poaching, the heard was dwindling and starving.  Beginning with $45,000 in 1912, the National Elk Refuge was purchased to feed wintering elk.  The Elk Refuge today, nearly 25,000 acres in size, has supported upwards of 18,000 wintering elk.

In Grand Teton National Park we have a rare opportunity to witness firsthand the spring migration of one of the last great herds of elk.  Elk begin leaving their wintering grounds in April and May, following the receding snowline back into the cool, high country, where they spend the summer.  These animals travel distances varying from a few miles up to 100 miles during migration from the Refuge to Grand Teton National Park, southern Yellowstone National Park, and national forest lands to the north and northeast of Jackson Hole.

Visitors to Jackson Lake Lodge can witness Mother Nature at her finest.  As the herd travels North, from late May to mid-June, it passes through the Willow Flats area of Grand Teton National Park, directly behind the Lodge.  Cows will bear their young in these secluded willow thickets protecting them from such predators as wolf and grizzly bear.  Typically bearing only one calf, weighing 30 to 40 pounds, we frequently witness these newborn spotted calves staying close at hand to their Mothers at the herd continues it’s journey to cooler, higher, climates for the summer.

The breeding season (or “rut”) occurs in September and early October, while the elk are in the high country.  At this time, the high-pitched “bugling” of the mature bulls can be heard as they gather harems of cows and challenge rival bulls. During the rut, bulls vigorously defend their harems of half a dozen to 15 or more cows. 

In late fall, snow begins to fall in the high country, and the elk herds migrate back to their lower elevation winter range marking the end of the cycle, only to begin anew next spring.

 

Post from Don’s Corner ~ Interpretive Specialist

 

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