One of Jackson Hole’s biggest attractions is the abundant wildlife populations that call the valley home. Millions of people flock here each year to witness the abundant herds of elk and mule deer, the majestic moose, and who could forget about our iconic grizzly bears?
For those of us who call Jackson Hole home, we hold nature near and dear to our hearts, and we feel blessed to call this wild and magical place home. We all have a responsibility to be good stewards of our natural world and protect the wild wonders of our valley.
As visitation has increased over many years in Jackson Hole, so has car traffic. And when it comes to our wildlife, they are experiencing enormous negative effects. Each year, 26,000 people are injured and countless animals are lost in wildlife-vehicle collisions in the United States. Concerned neighbors, like CLI graduate Melissa Wandursky, built on previous efforts to address this problem. They mobilized concerned community members and various nonprofit organizations in the valley to support a fund to build highly effective wildlife crossing structures. Finally in 2019, the Jackson Hole community came together to overwhelmingly pass a tax measure to provide $10M in public funding for the construction of wildlife crossings in Teton County to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions. The success of this effort demonstrates what our community can achieve when it comes together around our shared conservation values.
But our commitment to preserving wildlife doesn’t stop at building crossing structures. As more people find themselves in Jackson than ever before, other forms of human-wildlife conflict are popping up, often with tragic consequences. Just last week, the offspring of well-known Grizzly 610, a 3 1/2-year-old male known as 1028, was darted out of a dumpster and killed after a summer of getting into improperly secured human food. His sibling met the same fate in June, as did another of Jackson Hole’s grizzly bears this summer. And with both grizzlies and black bears scattered all through the valley experiencing hyperphagia – extreme hunger driving their eating behavior before hibernation – others could be next.
Solving this problem requires collective action from all of us. First, residents and visitors must be “Bear Aware”. Storing bird feeders, removing other potential food sources like pet food, and securing your trash are all good first steps. In addition, we must encourage our neighbors to also adopt these practices, including educating people that feeding wildlife is not only illegal, but detrimental to the health of the animals. And finally, we must tell our representatives to protect local wildlife by mandating Bear Proof Trash Cans in Teton County. By doing all these things, we can start to address this challenge and protect our bear neighbors.
It’s our duty to protect wildlife in Jackson Hole. We must do our part, educate others, and encourage our representatives to pass simple and effective protections if we want to have our wild neighbors here forever. Just like our community came together to help solve the problem of vehicle-wildlife collisions with wildlife crossings, we must come together to solve the tragic problem of bear euthanization due to purposeful or accidental human feeding.