Collaring Moose to Understand Movement

I was invited to spend a day shadowing the efforts of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WYGFD) as they searched for cow moose to collar near Wilson. The morning began with a quick meeting in the Stilson parking lot, with a briefing from WYGFD biologist Aly Courtemanch on proper protocol to ensure the safety and wellbeing of us volunteers and the potential moose we were to find.

We jumped into our cars and fanned out in search of moose. Not long after, a tip came in that a cow moose was hanging around in Wilson on a Jackson Hole Land Trust (JHLT) easement, Centennial Ponds! We quickly located the cow moose and the WYGFD team determined she was in a good location, away from roads, so the decision was made to dart the moose with a sedative. Deeply asleep and snoring soundly, the biologists from the Wyoming Game and Fish Department quickly outfitted the female moose with a new GPS collar, including a yellow cattle tag with a two-digit identifying number. An antidote to the sedative is administered, and she’s back on her feet within five minutes. This entire process took no more than a half-hour, a testament to the practice of the WYGFD team.

The Centennial Ponds moose was collared as part of a larger effort to utilize seven GPS collars. As GPS collars can transmit location data multiple times an hour and remain online for years at a time, they have become an important tool for management and data collection. Agencies like the Wyoming Game and Fish Department deploy collars to track animal movement and habitat usage, garnering information that can be used to delineate crucial habitats and important wildlife corridors. In fact, the JHLT protects over 7,900 acres of designated crucial moose habitat in the Jackson work area.

The team at the Wyoming Game and Fish Department are outstanding stewards of our big game populations and the WYGFD serves as a critical partner of the Jackson Hole Land Trust in identifying important areas for land conservation.

I am grateful for the experience and look forward to seeing the collared moose as she continues to meander the West Bank.

Photo & Story: Zach Andres, Events and Outreach Associate

Vogel Hill Easement Conserves 120 Acres on West Gros Ventre Butte

The Jackson Hole Land Trust (JHLT) recently conserved 120 acres of open space and high-quality big game habitat on the slopes of West Gros Ventre Butte. The easement enhances landscape-scale connectivity in Teton County, linking West Gros Ventre Butte to JHLT-protected properties in Spring Gulch and Coyote Canyon while contributing to the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem’s overall ecological function.

Protected in perpetuity, the easement conserves a diverse array of topography, aquatic habitats, and natural plant communities critical for the viability and survival of local wildlife. “We are very pleased to be able to donate this conservation easement to the Jackson Hole Land Trust,” said landowner John Shelton of Trident Partners. “We wanted to reduce the footprint of development on Vogel Hill to preserve an important wildlife corridor that had already been impacted by development in sensitive areas.”

The easement protects vital habitat for wintering mule deer and greater sage-grouse populations with east and southeast-facing slopes with interspersed pockets of mixed aspen, conifer, mountain shrub, and forb. Located in an area of high development pressure less than one mile from the town of Jackson, Vogel Hill also safeguards an elk migration corridor and mule deer Crucial Winter Range as designated by Wyoming Game and Fish.

The steep, varied terrain offers wildlife refuge from the roads, lights, and human activity below. Rocky cliffs, scattered trees, and shrubs provide a variety of nesting sites for a wide range of birds, and raptors can be observed riding the thermals along the butte while migrating and hunting. Large carnivores like gray wolves likely use the property as they move across the valley, and mountain lions may utilize the rocky outcroppings as cover, particularly during the winter. Several songbird species nest in the sagebrush, including Brewer’s sparrow, sage thrasher, and green-tailed towhee. Fisk’s Spring, a tributary of Spring Creek, flows through the eastern portion of the easement and provides spawning habitat for Snake River cutthroat trout. Vogel Hill’s waterways support important riparian and wetland habitats that reptiles, amphibians, and resident and migratory birds rely on.

The Vogel Hill easement’s protection would not have been possible without the landowner’s commitment to conservation. “We are incredibly grateful for the donation of this easement,” said Ellen Incelli, JHLT conservation project manager. “The property’s well-stewarded lands are relied on by some of Teton County’s most iconic wildlife and are a vital piece to protecting the rural character and ecological function of Spring Gulch.”

Photo: Zach Andres