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Best of the Tetons

Critters

Maybe they don’t have the “mass” of the large game animals and predators, but they are equally fun and equally challenging to photograph!

This page contains photos of some of the smaller mammals found in the Jackson Hole valley and Grand Teton National Park. With few exceptions, I don’t go out looking for the critters. Instead, I am usually out taking photos of something else when I catch a glimpse of something moving nearby.

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Short-tailed Weasel or Ermine

I’ve only see a few Weasels or Ermine while out in the valley. They are elusive and seem to always be on the move. This page contains lots of facts about them. Weasel (Short Tailed) or (Ermine) . There are possibly some Long-tailed Weasels in the valley.

Weasel

Weasel: I photographed this Weasel along the Gros Ventre while searching for moose. I’ve seen photos others took inside the Gros Ventre campground. Other photographers have been known to capture images of them along the road on the National Elk Refuge, though I haven’t been so lucky.

Ermine

Ermine: Needless to say, seeing a small white mammal in an ocean of white snow is not an easy task! This one happened to run across the top of the snow along the Snake River south of Hoback Junction. I’ve seen them on numerous occasions along Spring Gulch Road, but I have never been able to capture one in my camera. A few years ago, I caught a glimpse of one running across my back yard. I’d love to get thousands more photos of them!

Great Gray and Ermine

Great Gray Owl and Ermine: I’ll take that back. I captured this shot of a Short-tailed Weasel (Ermine in winter) along Spring Gulch Road, but only after the Great Gray captured it first.

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Coyotes

You might find a coyote about anywhere in the valley at any time of the year. They are leery of humans as they are shot as pests outside the park.

Coyote

Coyote: Occasionally, a coyote will stop long enough to get a few shots. I photographed quite a few of them in the National Elk Refuge, along Mormon Row, and at Elk Flats.

Coyote Pups

Coyote Pups: During the past couple of years, coyote raised a litter of pups under one of the buildings along Mormon Row. These two were close to the Moose Visitor’s Center.

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Wolves

Despite the fact there are numerous packs of wolves in Grand Teton National Park, I seldom see them and almost never get to photograph them.

Wolf

Wolf and Coyote: Knowing wolves are near the top of the food chain, I was hesitant to include them on this page, but I thought this photo merited the inclusion. This large black wolf was milling around on the east side of the park. The Coyotes were amazingly brave around him—possibly trying to lure him away from their den. Watch for Wolves along the Snake River, around Willow Flats and Oxbow Bend, and near Uhl Hill on the east side of the park. Some are seen in the Buffalo Fork river bottom and housing areas.

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Porcupines

A lot of farmers kills porcupines on sight. They strip the bark and kill trees and can cause a lot of damage. Inside the Park, they are protected.

Porcupine

Porcupine: I photographed this Porcupine along the East Boundary Road a few years back. It seemed out of place with no trees anywhere near.

Porcupine

Porcupine: This Porcupine had been killing a valley resident’s trees next to his house on West Gros Ventre Butte. A friend of the homeowner trapped the animal. I went with the trapper to release it along the base of the mountain north of Wilson. We had expected it to move slowly out of the trap and get into the closest clump of trees, but instead, it took off like a thoroughbred racehorse coming out of the gate.

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Badgers

Watch for badgers anywhere there are Uinta Ground Squirrels and soft dirt. A few dig holes around the Gros Ventre Campground and around the Mormon Row barns.

Badgers

Badgers: I photographed these along Mormon Row a few years back. I also seen them in the pastures near Elk Flats and near the Kelly Warm Springs.

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Red Squirrels

Most of my shots of Red Squirrels were taken in my back yard. One has been building nests and stashing food there for years. However, they are commonly seen in almost all wooded parts of the valley. At certain times of the year, Red Squirrels harvest cones from the various Spruce and Pine trees.

Red Squirrel

Red Squirrel. This mother was moving her six babies from one hole to another.

Baby Red Squirrel

Baby Red Squirrel: A few weeks later, the youngsters came out and explored their surroundings before being run off by the mother.

Jumping Red Squirrel

Jumping Red Squirrel: One of the advantages of having a resident Squirrel is being able to get shots like this. I put peanuts in a tree trunk for her. She’d go back and forth getting the peanut and returning to her nesting cavities. I set up with a couple of strobes for some high speed-sync action. She’s an athlete, but she doesn’t wear Nike shoes!

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River Otters

River Otters can be found in about any of the valley’s waterways. But, that’s easier to say than it is to actually find them and photograph them. They are constantly on the move and can travel large distances in search of fresh food sources…fish!

Otter Family

Otter Family: I photographed this family a few years ago along Flat Creek. Another group is often photographed on the snow near Oxbow Bend and around the Jackson Lake Dam. I’ve photographed them along the Gros Ventre River and along Pacific Creek.

River Otters with Catch

River Otters with their catch:

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Muskrats

These critters are quite a bit smaller than otters, but are often found in the same areas.

Muskrat

Muskrat: I photographed this Muskrat from the observation platform along Flat Creek.

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Chipmunks

This might be a “least Chipmunk”, but actually, I believe there are at least three species of Chipmunks in the area. They are common in almost all parts of the valley. Watch for them in the tops of the sagebrush and scavenging for food and seeds around campgrounds and pullouts.

Chipmonk

Chipmunk: I photographed this one along the Gros Ventre river as it heads out of the Park and into the Slide Lake area. Again, they are common everywhere.

Chipmonk

Chipmunk: I took this photo along the Moose-Wilson road a few years ago. Black Hawthorne berries attract a variety of animals including Black Bears and Grizzly Bears, along with many species of birds.

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Yellow-bellied Marmots

Marmots are fairly common in the Jackson Hole valley. Watch for them in rock piles along the road.

Yellow-bellied Marmot

Yellow-bellied Marmot: They spend much of their day sunning on the rocks. They are quick to hide if a hawk or predator is in the area. A good place to find them is in the rocks at the National Museum of Wildlife Art. They hibernate in the winter.

Yellow-bellied Marmot

Yellow-bellied Marmot: Occasionally, you’ll find a Marmot in a large tree trunk. This one was near Pilgrim Creek in GTNP. Obviously, they are difficult to spot.

Yellow-bellied Marmot

Yellow-bellied Marmot: As far as I know, this is still a Yellow-bellied Marmot. I’ve seen a few pockets of the dark ones in the valley. This one was photographed at White Grass Ranch a few years ago. I went back to photograph them again, only to be told the Park Service trapped them out and moved them to another undisclosed location in the park. They were interfering with preservation efforts. Another group  of dark Marmots can sometimes be seen at the base of the mountain near the Cascade Canyon and Hidden Falls boat ramp.

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Red Foxes

These sly little critters inhabit much of the valley, but are not always easy to find or photograph.

Red Fox

Red Fox: A few years ago, Red Foxes were plentiful in the Wilson area. This one is “mousing”.

Red Fox

Red Fox: They can be very agile while chasing their prey. I’ve watched them capture a mouse or vole, then bury it, mark their spot, and continue hunting. On the way back to the den, especially when they have kits, they gather them up and carry a large mouthful of food to their young.

RedFoxSnowBank_Mar24

Red Fox: I prefer Winter for photographing Foxes while their fur is long and full. I photographed this one in the north end of the Park. Lots of people photographed a Red Fox in Karns Meadows a few years back. Some can be seen along the fence lines around Kelly. Check out this earlier Feature Post showing more of this Fox. Red Fox: A Spring Vixen

Red Fox

Red Fox: By late spring, Foxes begin to shed some of their winter coats. While this one might look like a black fox or a silver fox, they are still Red Foxes and will have a white tip on their tail. I photographed this in the pastures in Wilson.

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Uinta Ground Squirrels:

Uinta Ground Squirrels are plentiful throughout the sage flats of Jackson Hole. Hawks, owls and other raptors feed on them, along with Badgers, Foxes, and Coyotes. Interestingly, they spend roughly eight months of the year underground or hibernating.

Uinta Ground Squirrels

Baby Uinta Ground Squirrels:  You can see them on almost any summer day around the Mormon Row barns.

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Pikas

Pikas are usually found in the higher elevations. Watch for them in rock piles gathering clumps of grass and vegetation.

Pika

Pika: I photographed this little Pika on my way up to Cascade Canyon: One of the Teton’s Many Gems

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Beavers

The American Fur Traders came to Jackson Hole to trap beavers during the time span of 1825-1840. They could have effectively trapped the entire population in a year or two. Populations of beavers are now well recovered. Watch for beavers in the river bottoms and see more images on this Feature Post: Beavers of Schwabacher Landing

Beaver

Beaver:  I photographed this beaver at Schwabacher Landing. They can also be seen along the Gros Ventre river and Pacific Creek.

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Ground Squirrels

There are a few different species of Ground Squirrels in Jackson Hole. At slightly higher elevations watch for Golden-mantled Ground Squirrels.

Ground Squirrel

Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel: These are larger than the Chimpmonks found in the valley. I photographed this one near Inspiration Point on my Cascade Canyon: One of the Teton’s Many Gems hike.

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Raccoons

Raccoons are mostly nocturnal feeders. They are not native to the region, but have moved in and are thriving.  While fly fishing, I saw a family of Raccoons working their way along the bank of the Snake River.

Raccoon

Raccoon: I photographed this Raccoon in my back yard one night after our dog ran it up a tree. They come around looking for leftover bird feed.

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Pine Marten

I have so little experience with Pine Martens…here’s a link with more info: Pine Martin | Wilderness Classroom

Pine Marten

Pine Marten: I took this photo of an elusive little Pine Marten while waiting for a mother Moose and Calf to stand up near Taggart Lake Trailhead. I’ve seen them on the road going into the Laurence S. Rockefeller Preserve, but didn’t get shots. For a while, a Pine Marten was hanging around the parking area a the Pacific Creek boat launch near Moran Junction.

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Others?

Oh yes! There are lots of others! This guide will give you a much longer list of animals in GTNP: Mammal-Finding Guide via the Grand Teton National Park web site. There are mice, voles, shrews, bats, rabbits, wolverines, ferrets, woodrats, gophers, and the list goes on! As I have the opportunity, I spin my camera around and try to capture them.

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Serendipity Happens!

 

Predators

Predators

Serendipity means a “happy accident” or “pleasant surprise”; a fortunate mistake. Specifically, the accident of finding something good or useful while not specifically searching for it. That’s according to Wikipedia.

You’ve probably seen bumper stickers saying “Sh*t Happens”. Forest Gump might even have originated it if you believe the movie. Serendipity probably qualifies as the polar opposite. In photography, serendipity can happen on frequent occasions—it is just a matter of whether the photographer is ready enough, or aware enough to capture it.

A friend told me his best pine marten images were taken when he was set up trying to photograph pikas. He said the marten came out of the rocks, posed for quite a few shots and then continued off on the hunt for the little pikas. Another photographer showed me his photos of an ermine that popped his head out of the snow while he was waiting for bighorn sheep to move around on the cliffs.

I was set up taking the normal landscape shots at Schwabacher Landing a few years ago when a moose cow came out of the brush and began heading south. I grabbed my tripod and ran to a spot I thought she might pass in front of the Tetons. I got a few, but I wasn’t too prepared for the incident.  I was still set up for landscape shots, with low ISO, closed down aperture settings, slow shutter speeds and shutter delay set to a few seconds in my camera’s menus. I managed to get the ISO up and aperture opened up a little. When she crossed one spot, I pressed the shutter only to realize the 2 second shutter delay let her cross and go out of my desired spot. I moved again, made a change in the menus and finally got a shot or two. I had another similar story, not far from Schwabacher taking landscape panos, when a wolf chased an elk across the creek right in front of me. The black wolf stopped in the middle of the stream and looked at me, but in that case, I didn’t have time to make all of the necessary adjustments and didn’t get any shots at all. Everyone will have their own similar stories. You know…”Sh*t Happens!”

Of course, there are times when an aware photographer might have time to adjust and get shots others would miss. For example, you could be set up for landscapes at one of the pools at Schwabacher landing and hear the distinctive sounds of a trumpeter swan just out of sight. A few quick settings changes and you could be ready for the shot if it were to happen. To some, it might appear like you had an serendipitous moment.

The image at the top of the page was taken a few years ago on Spring Gulch Road. Several Great Gray Owls spent the spring along the road and I spent quite a few days there. Increasing the days also increases the chances to get quality shots, of course. One morning, I saw one of the owls land on a buck rail fence. I had already taken quite a few of them on buck rail fences, so just stayed put in hopes of it flying back out to catch a field mouse or vole. Instead, it jumped off the buck rail fence into the snow under it. When I saw it next, it had something white in its beak. Wow! It was an ermine. The owl flew across in front of me and to my right where it overshot its perch and landed on the ground. I moved to the area and set up quickly. The owl came out of the underbrush and sat there with it’s price catch folded in its beak as if to show off. I got maybe six shots and it went back under an overhanging bush. It is hard to say the image is a once-in-a-lifetime image, but I don’t know anyone else with anything even similar.

About the Photo: Predators : Prints are available for sale. Click Here!
Nikon D300 with a Nikon 200-400mm lens on a Gitzo tripod and Arca-Swiss Z-1 Ballhead: ISO 400, F/8, 1/500th sec.

About the Photo: Grand Lightning : Prints are available for sale. Click Here!
Nikon D300 with a Nikon 24-70 mm lens on a Gitzo tripod and Arca-Swiss Z-1 Ballhead: Lightning Trigger used:  ISO 100, F/9, 1/10th sec.:

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