Winter in Grand Teton National Park makes for beautiful snowy vistas and unique recreation, but it’s also the hardest time of year for wildlife.
While the park encourages skiing, snowboarding, and winter hikes, officials also want visitors to keep Teton wildlife in mind while they’re out and about.
“Bighorn sheep in the Teton Range are particularly susceptible to winter disturbances, the park’s Superintendent, Chip Jenkins, offers in Grand Teton National Park’s media release Thursday. “The park is asking skiers and snowboarders to voluntarily avoid sensitive bighorn sheep winter habitat. Please help spread the word to conserve these iconic animals.”
For bighorn sheep and most wildlife, conserving energy becomes a crucial challenge in winter. Temperatures plummet and food becomes scarce all around. Not only does staying warm and feeding become far more difficult, but so does traveling between integral habitats.
Bison, elk, deer, and moose survive harsh Teton winters by using the least amount of energy possible. This means slowing down, of course, which maintains fat reserves from feasting during warmer seasons. And nothing is more crucial to a mammal mother as her own body feeds her young in the womb through winter.
As a result, Grand Teton National Park wildlife specialists are asking visitors to avoid disturbing animals. You can do so by following all winter closures and voluntarily avoiding bighorn sheep winter zones, alongside the other tips, rules, and regulations below.
Tips to Help Grand Teton National Park Wildlife Survive the Winter
- Please follow all winter closures posted to the park
- Avoid bighorn sheep wintering zones and any wildlife you see
- Maintain 100 yards from bears and wolves
- Maintain 25 yards from all other animals
- Safely enjoy wildlife by respecting their space and habitats
“Visitors can safely enjoy watching wildlife by being respectful of their need for space,” the park continues. The best way to do so is by “staying clear of their sensitive habitats and allowing them to maintain their vital energy reserves.”
To see bighorn sheep’s wintering zones on a map, click the link in the list above. Grand Teton National Park also lists areas closed to the public in order to protect important ungulate winter range. These include:
- Summits of Mount Hunt, Prospectors Mountain, and Static Peak
- Dec. 1 through Apr. 30
- Areas around the Snake River, Buffalo Fork River and Kelly Hill
- Dec. 15 through Apr. 1
- Northern portion of Blacktail Butte (the open slopes on the southwest side of Blacktail Butte and the Practice Rocks climbing area at the northern tip of the butte remain open)
- Dec. 15 through Apr. 30
- Wolff Ridge and a portion of the Spread Creek drainage
- Dec. 15 through Apr. 30
And remember, winter in Grand Teton National Park means limited services and seasonal closures. Winter visits are very different from summer excursions as a result. Be sure to plan ahead, recreate responsibly, promote stewardship and “help ensure this iconic landscape and wildlife can be enjoyed by future generations,” the park asks.