Springtime in Grand Teton National Park brings a sense of rejuvenation to Jackson Hole. Wildlife are coming out of hibernation and raising their young. The snow is beginning to melt, revealing silvery-green big leaf sagebrush growing on the valley floor. Narrow leaf cottonwood and willows thrive along the Snake River and in marshes. Wildflowers, such as the bright yellow glacier lily and the deep purple sky pilot, paint the alpine zone with color. The world is alive and active once again.
As temperatures start to rise in the valley, flora begins to grow near the roads first, bringing wildlife to feed closer to cars and other vehicles.
On a late Sunday afternoon, I am driving from Signal Mountain to Jackson Lake Lodge. A couple is standing alongside the road photographing in the direction of the Tetons. Thinking they are just capturing the mountains on a cloudless day, I continue to drive past. It isn’t until I glance at the roadside that I realize why the couple stopped. At Jackson Lake Junction, a cow moose (female) and her calf are grazing on the shoulder of the road. A perfect moment for a family photo.
The National Park Service (NPS) “Mammal-Finding Guide” offers a few precautions for wildlife viewing and photography:
“Maintain a safe distance of at least 300 feet from large animals such as bears, bison, moose and elk. Do not position yourself between an adult and its offspring. Females with young are especially defensive. Repeated encounters with people have cumulative effects including stress and behavior changes, such as an avoidance of an essential feeding area after frequent approach by people.”
Not wanting my subjects to flee the scene, the photo opportunity calls for a 75-300mm lens. This allows me to witness the behavior of the moose without the influence of my immediate presence. I snap a few (well, maybe 30) shots as the pair munch on their dinner of willows, a moose diet staple.
Following NPS advice brings me to this conclusion: better photos and happy moose.