Wildlife Viewing

Always Keep a Safe Distance When Viewing Wildlife
All animals require food, water, and shelter. Each species also has particular living space, or habitat, requirements. To learn more about wildlife habitats and animal behavior, attend ranger-led activities.

Oxbow Bend
One mile east of Jackson Lake Junction. Slow-moving water provides habitat for fish such as suckers and trout, which become food for river otters, ospreys, bald eagles, American white pelicans, and common mergansers. Look for swimming beavers and muskrats. Moose browse on abundant willows at the water’s edge. Elk occasionally graze in open aspen groves to the east.

Timbered Island
A forested ridge southeast of Jenny Lake. Small bands of pronghorn antelope, the fastest North American land animal, forage on nearby sagebrush throughout the day.

Elk leave the shade of Timbered Island at dawn and dusk to eat the grasses growing among the surrounding sagebrush.

Mormon Row
East of Highway 26-89-91, one mile north of Moose Junction. Along Mormon Row and Antelope Flats Road, bison and pronghorn can be seen grazing in spring, summer, and fall. Also watch for coyotes, Northern harriers, and American kestrels hunting mice, Uinta ground squirrels, and grasshoppers. Sage grouse, sage thrashers, and sparrows also frequent the area.

Snake River
Jackson Lake Dam south to Moose. Elk and bison graze in grassy meadows along the river. Bison also eat grasses in the sagebrush flats on the benches above the river. Bald eagles, ospreys, and great blue herons build large stick nests within sight of the river. Beavers and moose eat willows that line the waterway.

Cascade Canyon
West of Jenny Lake. Look for, but do not feed, golden-mantled ground squirrels at Inspiration Point. Pikas and yellow-bellied marmots live in scattered boulder fields.

Mule deer and moose occasionally browse on shrubs growing at the mouth of the canyon. Listen for the numerous songbirds that nest in the canyon.

Blacktail Ponds
Half-mile north of Moose on Highway 26-89-191. Old beaver ponds have filled in and now support grassy meadows where elk graze during the cooler parts of the day. Several kinds of ducks feed in the side channels of the Snake River. Moose browse on willows growing along the river.

Be a Responsible Wildlife Observer
Use binoculars, spotting scopes or long lenses for close views and photographs. Always maintain a safe distance of at least 300 feet from large animals such as bears, bison, moose, and elk.

Never position yourself between an adult and its offspring. Females with young are especially defensive.

It is illegal to feed wildlife, including ground squirrels and birds. Feeding wild animals makes them dependent on people, and animals often bite the hand that feeds them.

Do not harass wildlife. Harassment is any human action that causes unusual behavior, or a change of behavior, in an animal. Repeated encounters with people can have negative, long-term impacts on wildlife,including increased levels of stress and the avoidance of essential feeding areas.

Nesting birds are easily disturbed. For wildlife, raising young is a private affair. If an adult bird on a nest fl.ies off at your approach, or circles you or screams in alarm, you are too close to the nest. Unattended nestlings readily succumb to predation and exposure to heat, cold, and wet weather.

Allow other visitors a chance to enjoy wildlife. If your actions cause an animal to flee, you have deprived other visitors of a viewing opportunity. Use an animal’s behavior as a guide to your actions, and limit the time you spend with wildlife, just as you would when visiting a friend’s home.

A trip into the backcountry requires advance planning. Download the Backcountry publication for more details.

Backcountry Regulations

  • Pets, weapons, bicycles, and vehicles are not allowed on trails or in the backcountry.
  • All overnight camping requires a permit.
  • Carry out all your garbage.
  • Prevent erosion by hiking on established trails erosion.
  • Horses have the right-of-way. Step off the trail and remain quiet while horses pass.
  • Observe and photograph wildlife from a safe distance. Do not approach or feed animals.
  • Prevent contamination of waterways by burying feces in a hole 6-8 inches deep at least 200 feet from streams and lakes. Pack out used toilet paper, tampons, sanitary napkins, and diapers in sealed plastic bags. Do not bury or burn them.

For your safety

  • This is bear country. Make bears aware of your presence and avoid surprising them by making loud noises like shouting or singing. Bear Safety Article
  • Carry drinking water.
  • Be prepared for rapid weather changes; bring rain gear and extra clothing.
  • High elevation may cause breathing difficulties; pace yourself.
  • Snow melts gradually, leaving valley trails by mid-June, canyon trails by late July. Be careful crossing snowfields and streams.
  • Tell someone where you are going and when you expect to return.
  • Solo hiking and off-trail hiking are not recommended.
  • Check with a ranger for current information on trail conditions.

Avoid Crowds
During July and August trailhead parking areas fill early, especially at South Jenny Lake, String Lake, Lupine Meadows, Death Canyon, and Granite Canyon. Parking
on natural vegetation results in permanent damage to plants; violators will be ticketed.

In paved parking lots, parking illegally will also result in a ticket. An early start will help you avoid parking problems.

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