By Mike Koshmrl
Jackson Hole Daily

The grizzly gossip mill was in full swing Wednesday as word spread that bear 399 and her four cubs were on the move, headed back to their normal territory around Grand Teton National Park.

Once the Wyoming Game and Fish Department heard of the five famous bruins’ northward travels, bear biologist Mike Boyce was on the scene, essentially escorting the grizzly family to the boundary of the park.

“Yep, they are back north,” Boyce said via text. “Watched them cross the park boundary yesterday afternoon. Happy Thanksgiving!”


Each autumn as the aspen grove erupt into a spectacle of color and the first snows dust the mountains, the region’s elk populations begin their seasonal migrations from the alpine high country to lower elevations. It is a natural ritual forged out of survival. After months spent grazing on rich summer foliage, elk must move to milder winter habitats less susceptible to the elements and where winter feed and water will be more accessible, or, risk the poor outlook of surviving the long winter and heavy snows in the mountains.

This passage, nature’s final curtain call before the onset of winter, brings to life the area’s wildernesses. The first migrations coincide with the peak rut, during which bull elk begin to separate and gather cows. Bulls will dutifully defend their harems, seldom sleeping or eating for weeks. A bull may lose as much as 200 pounds, or 20 percent of its weight, fending off challengers. These herds will then begin their long and generally arduous journeys to winter habitat.

The Pioneer Footprint

Elk migrations across the Greater Yellowstone region were first observed by fur trappers, who arrived in the Jackson Hole valley in the 1820s – although Native American tribes had discovered the region’s rich ecological diversity long before. Blackfoot and Shoshone Indians would make camp in the area following the spring thaw, but, like the elk they hunted, the harsh winters limited their stays to the warm summer months. After which, the tribes would migrate to milder climates.

Drawn by the bounty of wildlife, the first trappers established Jackson Hole as a crossroads of at least six major trade routes. These early explorers hosted annual rendezvouses, and word soon began to spread about the area’s rugged beauty and natural fertility, proliferated in East Coast newspapers. In the mid-1880s, the first permanent settlers began to arrive, and within a decade the valley was dotted with the first cabins and settlements, several of which survive today.


Can conservation raise your ranch’s bottom line?

If Noppadol Paothong sleeps in until 4am, he’s already late for work. The tenacious photographer has spent the last 15 spring seasons waking up before dawn in order to observe the early morning mating rituals of the greater sage grouse.

“To me sage grouse represent the wildness of a place,” Paothong said. “They are symbolic of wilderness. The last frontier of the American West.”

In many ways Paothong is right. The greater sage grouse is an indicator species, which means that its presence indicates vitality and resilience in a sagebrush steppe ecosystem. According to the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), habitat restoration efforts that benefit greater sage grouse populations also benefit 350 other dependent species. Songbirds like the Brewer’s sparrow and green tailed towhee as well as ungulates like mule deer and pronghorn proliferate where land has been managed for the benefit of the grouse.

But, many sage grouse do not live in protected wilderness areas. In fact almost 40% of sage grouse habitat is on private land, including millions of acres of rangeland across the Western US. That’s why, when the sagebrush steppe came under threat, it was landowners and ranchers that brought it back from the brink.

The sagebrush ocean, as it is commonly referred to, once stretched across and beyond the great basin, but much of it has been replaced by oil fields, housing developments and industrial farmland over the past century. Rampant wildfires, due in part to invasive grass species, and encroaching conifers have further threatened the once ubiquitous biome.


While we’re not strangers to adventure in the greater Yellowstone area, home buying is one you won’t soon forget. Finding your dream home is an exciting adventure that, at times, can feel all-consuming. On a good day, it’s fun to swipe through listings and visit every open house in your area, but after countless views and walkthroughs, and maybe a lost bidding war or two, the house hunt burnout becomes real.

In today’s real estate market, with low inventory dominating the conversation, the first-time homebuyer can often become frustrated if they are not prepared. We get it and are here to help. Here are a few ways to keep your stress and sanity at bay.

Get pre-approved for a mortgage before you even start…

The best way to show you are serious about buying a home is to get pre-qualified or pre-approved for a mortgage before you even start your search. The Teton County market is extremely competitive, knowing your budget before you start searching for a home will give you the confidence of knowing whether a specific neighborhood or area is within your reach.

This step will make it much easier to put offers on the properties you really love without any delay in waiting for your financing. You also don’t want to fall in love with a home and realize it’s outside of your budget.

Must-have, wish list and deal breakers…

Before you start looking, write down the non-negotiable features your new home needs. Then if a place doesn’t have everything on your must-have list, don’t go see it – no matter how curious you are.

Focusing on your list is a huge time saver and prevents ‘list creep’, which happens when you see shiny objects in each new house. Then all of a sudden you have a must-have list a mile long that includes a top tier chef’s kitchen when six out of seven days a week you order take out.

Find the right neighborhood…

Find an area that meets your amenity requirements, think – commute, school district, etc. Spend some time exploring that neighborhood, visit it at different times and days of the week to get a clear picture of what living there would be like.

Look at the neighborhood the same way you look at homes, every neighborhood has its own charm and should be considered just as important.

Find an agent…

It is possible to find a house that you like without the help of a real estate agent, but it will take a lot of work, research, and legwork to find the right property. When you team up with a qualified professional realtor, you can hand most of the work over to them. Finding and buying the home of your dreams can be stressful and daunting, so it’s wise to get the help you need from the people who have the most experience.

The bottom line is that in a high-paced, competitive environment, any advantage you can give yourself will help you on your path to buying your dream home.

Spend a day in Jackson Hole in the summer and you will never want to leave. Contact a real estate professional to make this your reality.