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Grand Teton National Park

Male Adult Grizzly Killed Grand Teton Grizzly Blondie’s Three Cubs

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A male grizzly bear has likely killed three cubs of a popular female grizzly in Grand Teton National Park, park officials said this week.

Grizzly 793, also known as “Blondie,” was last seen with her three cubs on Friday night, according to Jack Bayles, who runs the “Team 399” website.

On Saturday morning, a bear thought to be Blondie was seen moving rapidly around an area in the park.

“The thought is that Blondie lost her cubs to a male bear on Friday night or early Saturday morning and was looking for them,” Bayles said on social media this week.

Bayles told one of his social media followers that a male bear was likely cause of the cubs’ demise.

“It is the single leading cause of baby bears,” Bayles said.

Males can kill young animals for a variety of reasons, including having the ability to mate with a mother who is no longer nursing, a need for food or a lack of resources for the entire den.

Initially, Bayles was unsure if the lone grizzly was Blondie or her daughter, grizzly 1063, also known as “Fritter,” but said park officials confirmed Fritter still had her collar, so the solo grizzly must have been Blondie.

According to Bayles, Blondie is around 13 years old, meaning she has another 5 to 10 years of life, although grizzly 399 is 26 years old. She has had several cubs throughout her lifetime so far.

Neither Bayles nor Grand Teton spokesman Jeremy Barnum returned Cowboy State Daily’s requests for comment on Thursday.

While not quite as famous as her fellow Grand Teton resident grizzly 399, Blondie is one of the most famous bears in the park and is one of its most popular, if elusive, attractions.

In late May, a female grizzly bear and her mate attacked a 3-year-old bear, causing injuries severe enough that the National Park Service decided to euthanize the animal.

Utah photographer Julie Argyle said at the time that bear 815 and her male mate attacked the 3-year-old bear after the sub-adult wouldn’t leave an area.

“This is the first time I’ve heard of 815 being aggressive like this,” Argyle said. “But the situation is that it’s mating season, food sources are scarce and it’s her territory.”

She believed that the mother bear was attempting to frighten the bear away from the area, but when the male bear entered the altercation, things became deadly.

Wyoming Game and Fish Department large carnivore specialist Dan Thompson told Cowboy State Daily at the time that it is not uncommon for mother bears and their mates to attack their young.

“As the overall density of grizzly bears has increased within the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, we see more instances of what we call ‘intraspecific strife’ such as this,” he said. “These natural occurrences are another indicator of density dependence that is exhibited when a population is at carrying capacity.”

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Jackson Woman Banned From Grand Teton For Lying About Missing Irish Hiker

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The National Park Service has banned a former Jackson woman from Grand Teton National Park for five years for knowingly providing false information to law enforcement about a missing Irish hiker, officials said Thursday.

The park service said Heather Mycoskie, 40, knowingly provided false information and a false report in the search for missing hiker Cian McLaughlin, who was last seen on June 8, 2021. In addition to her park ban, Mycoskie was ordered to pay $17,600 in restitution to the U.S. Department of Treasury.

An investigation revealed that on June 21, 2021, Mycoskie provided false information to investigators about seeing an individual matching the description of McLaughlin.

As a direct result of Mycoskie’s false report, approximately 532 hours were spent conducting searches, managing search efforts, conducting follow up investigations and completing associated reports.

This wasted valuable time that could have been focused on searching areas of higher probability, according to park officials.

McLaughlin is still missing.

Mycoskie reported she saw McLaughlin in the late afternoon/early evening of June 8, 2021, the day of McLaughlin’s disappearance.

She also told investigators the missing man was hiking on the south side of the Bradley-Taggart moraine in Grand Teton National Park and was headed south towards Taggart Lake where he planned to jump off his favorite rock into the water.

Officials said Mycoskie provided a “very detailed” description of McLaughlin and stated she had a discussion with him in which he shared where he lived, where he was from and his place of employment.

The subsequent investigation revealed Mycoskie never saw anyone matching McLaughlin’s description on June 8, 2021 in Grand Teton National Park. Witnesses reported Mycoskie fabricated the sighting to ensure search efforts continued.

All other reported sightings of McLaughlin were on the trail system that leads towards Garnet Canyon, Surprise and Amphitheater Lakes and Delta Lake, according to NPS officials.

In September 2021, computer forensics revealed McLaughlin had conducted several internet searches focused on Delta Lake just prior to his hike.

Backcountry users in Grand Teton National Park are encouraged to contact the tip line, 888-653-0009, if they locate any of the items that McLaughlin was suspected to have had with him at the time of his disappearance.

These include a red Apple watch, a red iPhone 12 mini, gold wire-rimmed sunglasses, a silver U shaped pendant and a white t-shirt.

According to an article by the Irish Times, McLaughlin is a Dublin native who works as a snowboard instructor in Jackson. The newspaper also noted his Facebook page said he started working at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort in December 2020 and that he previously lived in the French ski resort town of Chamonix.

McLaughlin’s mother visited the park last fall and told an Irish news outlet she was prepared to recover, not rescue, her son.

McLaughlin was the only person who disappeared in the park last summer to not yet be found. Gabby Petito was found in Bridger-Teton National Forest, not far from the park, in mid-September and her death has been ruled a homicide.

Robert Lowery also was last seen in Grand Teton last August, and his body was found in September, as well. His death was ruled a suicide.

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Idaho Man Leads Grand Teton Police On 132 MPH Chase Sunday

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

An Idaho man was arrested on Sunday after leading multiple police officers on a high-speed chase through Grand Teton National Park and being caught on radar traveling 132 mph.

The man faces multiple counts, including driving under the influence, fleeing police officers, having an open container of alcohol, reckless driving and more. He received 10 citations, park spokesman CJ Adams told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday.

Although the man’s identity was not immediately released by park officials, U.S. District court filings showed a man identified as Jessie Perry was arrested on Sunday and charged with a variety of same state and federal counts as reported by Adams.

Adams said that the arrest capped an incident that began at around 3 p.m. Sunday, when an officer saw a 2015 gray Dodge truck at a high rate of speed, 108 mph, south on U.S. Highway 89 in the park, near Teton Point Turnout.

“Our law enforcement officer turned on their lights and sirens, but the vehicle did not pull over and continued at a high rate of speed, going even faster,” Adams said.

The truck continued further south, near the airport junction, when it was caught on radar traveling at 132 mph.

“The driver did come upon some traffic at the Gros Venture roundabout, but did not hit anyone,” Adams said. “The drivers in that area saw the police lights and all of them pulled over to the side of the road.”

Adams was unsure of how many cars were in the area when the driver came upon them. He pulled the vehicle over, which Adams said was likely in attempt to evade police, but he was caught and arrested by five law enforcement officers.

No one was hurt in the chase or arrest. The driver was the only person in his vehicle, and Adams confirmed he was ticketed for driving under the influence.

Adams said that while speeding is a fairly common occurrence in the park, a 132 mph chase is a very unique situation.

“These rates of speed are always dangerous, but especially this time of year and in a national park,” Adams said. “We do have migratory elk and moose in that area, and those are the animals people are coming here to see. There could be people pulled over to the side of the road to look, so it’s not only a danger to the person driving, but also a danger to other visitors and the wildlife.”

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First Grizzly Spotted At Grand Teton National Park, Other Bears Following Suit

in News/Grizzly Bears
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The first grizzly bear sighting at Grand Teton National Park occurred last week, as many male bears begin to emerge from hibernation across the country.

The first sighting in the park was reported on March 13, Grand Teton officials said.

Adult male grizzlies typically emerge from hibernation around this time of year, while females and their young leave the den around April or early May.

The most famous mother bear in Wyoming, Grizzly 399, and her four cubs likely won’t emerge from their den for another few weeks.

Experts believe the mother grizzly will likely send her four youngest cubs out of the den this year once they leave hibernation.

“They’ll come out of the den together,” Dan Thompson, large carnivore biologist for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, previously told Cowboy State Daily. “They’ll spend some time together for a while, but with 2-year-olds, usually they (the mama bear) will kick them off, especially when breeding starts in June, and they’ll go their separate ways.”

But Thompson said that this particular grizzly doesn’t always do what’s expected.

“This parent in particular seems to change things very quickly,” he said.

Bear 399 will be 26 years old this year and Thompson noted that she may be reaching the end of her child-bearing years.

“That’s pretty old for a bear to produce, and be able to forage for them,” he said. “We have documented two females with cubs of the year at age 25 — 399 would have been 24 when she had the four cubs (in 2020).”

When bears leave their dens, they search for food and often scavenge animals carcasses. Bears might display aggressive behavior during this time, if encountered while feeding.

“Bear season has begun, how it ends depends on all of us,” said Grand Teton National Park Superintendent Chip Jenkins. “We welcome the community led effort to work across boundaries to protect bears in Jackson Hole, and we need everyone’s help to remove unsecured attractants from the valley.”

The first Yellowstone National Park grizzly sighting occurred earlier this month.

There are estimated to be more than 1,000 grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem

A beloved male grizzly known as “Boo” recently awakened from hibernation at the Kicking Horse Bear Refuge in British Columbia, Canada. This is Boo’s 20th spring.

Black bears were spotted coming out of hibernation, and getting into mischief, at a home in New Hampshire, according to news outlet WMUR.

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Man Faces Prison, $25K Fine For Destroying Parts Of Grand Teton Natl Park With Illegal Motorcycle Event

in News/Crime
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A man identified as the organizer of an off-road vehicle event that damaged sensitive environment in Grand Teton National Park in 2020 is facing a series of federal charge.

Jacob “Jake” Hobbs was charged on Wednesday with unlawfully destroying and damaging property, unlawfully destroying and disturbing Grand Teton’s natural state plants and products, failing to report a property damage incident exceeding $300, destroying a monument and operating a motor vehicle in a restricted area.

He faces penalties of up to 27 months in prison, five years of probation and fines of up to $25,000.

According to documents filed in U.S. District Court on Wednesday, a park ranger was notified the night of July 18, 2020 of numerous motorized dirt bikes congregating in the Mormon Row area of the park.

A video showed around 30 to 40 people who appeared to be packing up and leaving the area. A ranger determined this event was an organized race among friends staying at the park’s Gros Ventre Campground as part of an annual party.

The race ultimately caused damage to 4,000 square feet of the Mormon Row.



Tips from the public showed multiple Instagram posts with the tag #boltsbday11 associated with videos and social posts showing pit bike races taking place along Mormon Row.

According to the state of Utah, Hobbs officially co-founded his business, BoltsAction LLC, in 2010, although it was unofficially founded in 2009, according to information contained in his internet blog. Hobbs was identified as a Salt Lake City resident in a statement accompanying the charges, but the report also said he was identified at the time of the incident from his Arizona driver’s license.

Rob Wallace, former U.S. Department of Interior assistant secretary, told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday that while it was infrequent, he did see some “bad actors” who either ignorantly or maliciously desecrated park areas while in office.

“The National Park Service and the Grand Teton National Park Foundation have embarked on a $5 million, multi-year project to restore the historic character of Mormon Row,” he said. “To think that these vandals could undo in a matter of minutes what has taken years of diligent, hard work and money to put together is a pretty sad statement about the way these people view our public lands.”

A statement accompanying charges said the race had been occurring annually on Mormon Row since 2013, but the statement added photos posted to social media and blogs indicated the race had taken place as early as 2011.

The video of the races showed Hobbs in the middle of a racetrack marked out with white flags, speaking into a bullhorn. Several videos provided as evidence show damage to the area growing worse as the day goes on.

Hobbs’ lawyer told a park ranger in August 2020 that Hobbs and the group were only in the area for approximately one hour and that Hobbs believed they were on U.S. Bureau of Land Management property. She also said there was no formal races, drug use or betting.

The ranger discovered at least two awards were given out during the race that July night, one for “most improved rider” and one for “run what ya brung.”

Grand Teton officials did not immediately respond to Cowboy State Daily’s request for comment on Thursday.

The hay fields along Mormon Row are part of a 10-year project that began in 2014 to remove non-native grasses and replant the area with 37 species of native plants to restore the site to a sagebrush steppe habitat. The project is a collaborative effort between the National Park Service, Grand Teton National Park Foundation, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and Teton Conservation District.

The various agencies had invested several years of effort into the project, removing invasive plants and seeding the native species. The area damaged by the motorcycle riders had been reseeded just last year.

The area is an important habitat for elk, bison, pronghorn, moose, sage grouse and a variety of other wildlife, which all depend on the sagebrush steppe.

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Idaho Woman Ordered To Pay $5K For Improper Food Storage In Grand Teton

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

An Idaho woman was ordered to pay a fine of more than $5,000 for improperly storing food in Grand Teton National Park.

Belinda J. Arvidson, 50, was ordered to pay $5,826.99 for improper food storage and will serve four years of unsupervised release.

While camping in Grand Teton National Park, Arvidson failed to properly store garbage and beverages, resulting in a grizzly bear receiving a food reward when it found the unattended garbage and drink at the campsite.

“Irresponsible behaviors have  consequences, and many times it is the wildlife that pays the ultimate price,” said Chip Jenkins, superintendent of Grand Teton National Park. “We all have responsibilities to preserve and protect the incredible wild animals of Grand Teton National Park and the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.”  

Individuals camping in the area took photos and videos of the grizzly bear while it was in Arvidson’s campsite rummaging through the trash and other food items. The campground contained multiple warning signs about bears and proper food storage as well as bear boxes in which food and other items could be stored.  

Due to the bear receiving a food reward, upon locating the bear, it was tranquilized, collared, and relocated by boat to another area of the park.

The bear could pose a danger to humans if it were to  have another similar incident, and killing the bear may become necessary, the park said.

The fine to be paid by Arvidson covers the National Park Service’s costs for relocating the bear, including the cost of a GPS collar now necessary to track the bear’s movement.

All food and items with a smell must be stored in a bear-resistant food storage locker or in a hard-sided vehicle  with the doors locked and windows closed day and night.

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Yellowstone, Grand Teton Officially Have Busiest First Quarter Ever

in Yellowstone/News/Recreation
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The claims that both Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks are seeing more visitors than ever before this summer have been confirmed by a state report.

A report on the economic indicators for the first quarter of 2021 issued by the Wyoming Departmetn of Administration and Information shows tourism numbers have skyrocketed in the state this year compared to 2020.

Both parks saw more than a 20% increase in visitations through March of 2021, with Yellowstone seeing 107,846 visitors in the first quarter (up 20.7% compared to last year) and Grand Teton seeing 194,447 visitors (up 22.8% compared to last year).

“Visitation figures for both national parks were the highest recorded for the first quarter in history,” the report said, noting that this was attributed to people wanting to spend time outdoors during the pandemic, while coronavirus cases also trended downward.

Lodging sales in Teton County were up 27.9% compared to last year and up 16.4% for the state as a whole.

According to a National Park Service report, more than 3.8 million people visited Yellowstone National Park last year and spent more than $444 million in communities near the park. That spending supported 6,110 jobs in the area near Yellowstone, which had a cumulative benefit to the local economy of $560 million.

Overall, about 7.1 million people visited all the national parks in Wyoming in 2020, spending an estimated $859 million in “gateway” regions, communities within 60 miles of a national park.

This spending supported a total of 11,300 jobs, generating $333 million in labor income $604 million in “value added” — the difference between the production cost of an item and its sale price — and $1 billion in economic output in the Wyoming economy.

The majority of these jobs were divided among restaurants, lodging and “secondary effect” businesses.

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Grizzly Relocated In Grand Teton Due to People Feeding It

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A young adult male grizzly bear had to be relocated within Grand Teton National Park this week after obtaining human in two incidents earlier this month.

On June 11, a visitor reported that a grizzly bear walked through a Grassy Lake Road campsite, sniffed a picnic table and unoccupied tent, which it then put its paws on. No damage was done to the tent. 

Visitors yelled at the bear and it ran away.

The next day, Teton Interagency Dispatch Center received a report of people feeding a grizzly bear from their vehicle south of the Lizard Creek Campground.

On June 13, there was a report of a grizzly gaining access to unattended trash and a drink at a campsite.

Both incidents are under investigation, although one person was cited for improper food storage, which carries a mandatory court appearance.

Later on June 13, the grizzly was captured and collared. He is a young male around 2.5 years old. All reports and evidence indicate he was the bear involved in each incident.

Park spokewoman Denise Germann told Cowboy State Daily on Friday that the decision was made to relocate the bear to try and break the cycle it had developed of approaching humans in hopes of some kind of food reward.

She added that it was irresponsible for people to feed grizzlies, either directly or indirectly.

“When people take these actions, there are consequences, many of which are for the bear, who can either be relocated or removed,” Germann said. “It’s an awesome opportunity to come to the park and see a bear in the wild, but we also have to be good stewards of the land, which includes not feeding wildlife.”

The bear was relocated on June 15 to the west side of Jackson Lake.

Bears that obtain human food may lose their natural fear of humans and may seek out humans and human-developed areas as an easy source of food. 

As a result, bear may become aggressive toward people and may have to be killed.

The proper storage of food items and responsible picnicking are vitally important in bear country. Picnickers should only have out the items they plan to use immediately so that if a bear approaches, food items can be quickly gathered and the opportunity for the bear to receive a food reward is removed. 

Visitors should store food and scented items in bear-resistant food lockers that are located throughout the park or in a hard-sided vehicle. Deposit trash in bear-resistant receptacles and do not burn waste in fire rings or leave litter in campsites.

“Feeding wildlife is illegal and dangerous, and we take these incidents very seriously,” park superintendent Chip Jenkins said. “The impacts of irresponsible behavior can have very negative effects for humans and wildlife.” 

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Grand Teton Search Efforts For Irish Man Scaled Back Almost Two Weeks After Disappearance

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

After being missing for almost two weeks, Grand Teton National Park officials are scaling back the search efforts for 27-year-old Cian McLaughlin.

The decision to move to a “continuous but limited” search for the Dublin native would have been a difficult one for park officials to make, according to a former assistant secretary for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service who also served as a park ranger.

“From my experience in the parks service, they take missing and injured visitors very seriously,” he told Cowboy State Daily on Monday. “The parks staff are well-trained and equipped to search for people.”

It was believed McLaughlin intended to go hiking early last week. He was last seen at about 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 8, about one-half mile from the Lupine Meadows Trailhead, where his vehicle was found Sunday.

On Wednesday, rangers received a report of someone seeing a man fitting McLaughlin’s description around 3:45 p.m. on June 8 hiking up the Garnet Canyon trail, so search teams began to look in that area late last week.

Since McLaughlin disappeared, up to 70 park staff per day have been involved in the search for him, which has included the use of helicopters, dog teams and special rescue teams scaling the park’s steep mountainsides.

However, since no one has found a trace of McLaughlin in a week, Wallace said park officials had to make the decision to scale back efforts.

“At some point, you’ve done everything you know how to do,” he said. “I know the team here is top-notch and have done everything they’ve can to look for him. Your heart just goes out to his friends and family who are anxiously waiting to hear anything.”

The scaled back search will involve park staff continuing to investigate new clues as they are presented and patrolling the park’s backcountry for signs of McLaughlin.

Wallace said while it is not uncommon for people to be reported as missing in the parks, due either to getting lost or becoming injured, it is more unusual for them not to be found at all.

“Having been a park ranger in this area, I know that this has been a top, professional effort to find this gentleman,” Wallace said.

McLaughlin works as a snowboard instructor in Jackson, a job he has held since December.

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Grand Teton Rangers Giving “Everything They’ve Got” In Search For Missing Man

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Correction: An earlier version of this story stated Michael Ficery went missing in Yellowstone. He actually went missing in Yosemite National Park.

By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

People going missing in national parks is not uncommon.

However, the searches vary according to the situations and can last for just hours or stretch into multiple days, Grand Teton National Park spokeswoman Denise Germann told Cowboy State Daily this week.

In the most recent case, that of Cian McLaughlin, 27, who has been missing in the park for more than a week, searchers have to be vigilant and extremely cautious, especially when looking through the backcountry, she said.

“The staff here has to have some specialized skills in order to do a search, because you’re dealing with both the Teton Range and the backcountry,” Germann said. “When managing a search operation, it’s not just leading search and rescue, but also managing the safety of all the people involved in the search.”

Germann noted that staff is called “routinely” about missing persons in the park, but people are generally found within a few hours, most often in less than a day. There have only been a few large searches in recent years.

Currently, around 50 people are searching for McLaughlin, including park staff, Teton County Search and Rescue and dog teams.

It was believed McLaughlin intended to go hiking early last week. He was last seen at about 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 8, about one-half mile from the Lupine Meadows Trailhead, where his vehicle was found Sunday.

On Wednesday, rangers received a report of someone seeing a man fitting McLaughlin’s description on June 8 hiking up the Garnet Canyon trail.

Germann noted that each search has its own set of complexities, from the weather to where the person is missing from and the person’s knowledge of the area.

“Many times when people go missing, we have no clue where to start looking, so we have to search for evidence to narrow down a probable area,” she said. “It’s important people share any information they might have with us. I think this is also a key reminder to let someone know where you’re going and when you plan to be back. It could be a lifesaver.”

She did not indicate when the search for McLaughlin might be called off, stressing that every situation is different and that park staff would continue searching for him.

According to the Missing NPF website, a database that collects information about people missing in national parks, four people have disappeared into Yellowstone National Park and were never seen again: Stuart Isaac in 2010, Bruce Pike in 2006 and Daniel Campbell in 1991.

McLaughlin was listed as the only person missing in Grand Teton.

“We put everything we’ve got into these searches,” Germann said. “We’ve got the trail crew, firefighters, scientists, anyone who has the skills to be in this challenging terrain.”

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Fundraiser Organized to Bring Missing Man’s Family to Wyoming

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A fundraiser has been organized to help bring to Wyoming the family of an Irish man missing in Grand Teton National Park since last week.

Cian McLaughlin, 27, was reported missing late Saturday night after he failed to show up at job Thursday.

Members of McLaughlin’s family plan to come to the United States this week from Ireland.

“His mother Gráinne and her partner are travelling out to Wyoming on Wednesday 16th June,” said a GoFundMe page set up for McLaughlin’s family. “We have set up this Gofundme to help with travel and accommodation costs and any contingencies.”

The fundraiser has garnered more than $11,000 in U.S. currency.

It was believed McLaughlin intended to go hiking early last week and was last seen at about 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 8, about one-half mile from the Lupine Meadows Trailhead, where his vehicle was found Sunday.

Park staff found McLaughlin’s vehicle when they surveyed trailhead locations within the park early Sunday morning.

McLaughlin is 6 feet tall and weighs 180 pounds. He has brown hair and eyes. He has an Irish accent and would be considered thin or fit.

Updated information provided by park staff noted that McLaughlin was wearing a cutoff tank top and shorts, both of an unknown color, a bucket hat and round sunglasses. He wasn’t wearing a backpack.

According to an article by the Irish Times, McLaughlin is a Dublin native who works as a snowboard instructor in Jackson. The newspaper also noted his Facebook page said he started working at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort last December and that he previously lived in the French ski resort of Chamonix.

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Yellowstone, Grand Teton Tourism Supports 11K Jobs, Creates $800M In Spending

in Yellowstone/News/Recreation/Tourism
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

More than 3.8 million people visited Yellowstone National Park last year and spent more than $444 million in communities near the park, according to a new National Park Service report.

That spending supported 6,110 jobs in the area near Yellowstone, which had a cumulative benefit to the local economy of $560 million, according to the report.

The spending analysis was conducted by economists with the NPS and the U.S. Geological Survey.

Overall, about 7.1 million people visited national parks in Wyoming and spent an estimated $859 million in “gateway” regions, communities within 60 miles of a national park.

While this is the lowest amount of spending Wyoming has seen since 2014, national parks were closed for nearly two months in 2020, from mid-March to mid-May, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

This spending supported a total of 11,300 jobs, generating $333 million in labor income $604 million in “value added” — the difference between the production cost of an item and its sale price — and $1 billion in economic output in the Wyoming economy. The majority of these jobs were divided among restaurants, lodging and “secondary effect” businesses.

The lodging sector had the highest amount of spending, with $310 million. Restaurants followed, making $151 million last year.

The lowest amount of tourism spending went to camping, just under $33 million.

Nationally, the report showed that $14.5 billion was spent by more than 237 million park visitors across the U.S. This spending supported 234,000 jobs nationally, and 194,400 of those jobs were found in gateway communities. The nation’s cumulative economic benefit was $28.6 billion.

In 2019, Wyoming saw $924 million in visitor spending. However, last year’s economic output was comparable to years prior, down by just $1 million compared to 2017 through 2019.

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Grand Teton National Park Officials Looking For Missing Hiker

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Grand Teton National Park officials continued their search Monday for a missing man whose vehicle was found in the park over the weekend.

Cian McLaughlin, 27, was reported missing late Saturday night after he failed to show up at his place of employment on Thursday.

It was believed McLaughlin intended to go hiking earlier in the week. Park staff surveyed trailhead locations within the park early Sunday morning and located McLaughlin’s vehicle at the Lupine Meadows Trailhead.

Information provided Monday afternoon noted that McLaughlin was last seen around 2:30 p.m. on June 8 about a half mile from the Lupine Meadows Trailhead, where his vehicle was found on Sunday, and was hiking to an unknown destination.

McLaughlin’s plans for his hike were not known, so a ground and aerial search was immediately initiated in areas where he may have been hiking.

Anyone who has traveled in the Teton backcountry since June 8 may have seen McLaughlin. He could have been hiking in the Garnet, Surprise, Amphitheater, Delta or Taggart Lakes areas.

McLaughlin is 6 feet tall and weighs 180 pounds. He has brown hair and eyes. He has an Irish accent and would be considered thin or fit.

Updated information provided by park staff noted that McLaughlin was wearing a cutoff tank top and shorts, both of an unknown color, a bucket hat and round sunglasses. He wasn’t wearing a backpack.

Anyone with information about McLaughlin should contact the National Park Service’s investigative services branch at 888-653-0009 (call or text) or visits www.nps.gov/ISB and click “submit a tip.”

Over 40 park staff were conducting ground searches in the backcountry as of Monday, along with four local search and rescue dog teams and members of the Teton County Search and Rescue team.

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Grand Teton Saw Busiest April on Record

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Grand Teton National Park saw its busiest April in recorded history this year, with 87,739 recreation visits last month.

This is a 48% increase over figures from April 2019, the most recent available because of the park’s closure last April due to the coronavirus.

The list below shows April recreation visits over the last several years:
2021—87,739
2020—Closed
2019—59,105
2018—60,541
2017—58,403

Park staff are working to provide quality visitor experiences in the face of what officials predict will be a busy summer season.

Despite last year’s closure through the spring, the park hosted 3,289,639 visits in 2020, the fourth highest number of recreation visits for one year in the park’s history, according to the National Park Service. The park was closed from March 24 to May 18 due to health and safety concerns.

Compared to 2019, total recreation visits for the year declined by only 3.4%.

Visitors to the park are highly encouraged to plan ahead and recreate responsibly in order to make the most of their visit and to help ensure this iconic landscape may be enjoyed by future generations.

Park employees will also collect data and conduct visitation studies to better understand changing visitation trends in the park.

Consistent with CDC recommendations, fully vaccinated individuals are no longer required to wear masks inside park facilities or outdoors. A person is considered fully vaccinated at least two weeks after receiving the final dose of the vaccine.

Those who are not fully vaccinated must continue to wear masks indoors and in crowded outdoor spaces where physical distancing is not possible.

Visitors to Grand Teton are encouraged to “do your part” and recreate responsibly. Visitors are also encouraged to know they will have a place to stay overnight upon arrival. Reservations are required for all park campgrounds and can be booked on Recreation.gov.

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Grand Teton, National Park Service Restoring Mormon Row, Pink House

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The National Park Service and the Grand Teton National Park Foundation are joining forces to preserve and stabilize a historic property on Mormon Row inside of the park.

The John Moulton property, including the “Pink House,” will be closed to the public from now until mid-summer due to preservation activities.

The project will include structural foundation work to stabilize the Pink House and its iconic stucco, serving to improve the visitor experience through preservation of this important historic landscape.

Preservation and conservation professionals completed analyses of the building’s condition recently and concluded that preservation efforts should begin soon.

Specialists with the National Park Service Historic Preservation Training Center will be responsible for the temporary removal, documentation and storage of the building’s stucco skirt and brick chimney. A contractor will move the building off its existing foundation, pour a new foundation and then reattach the structure.

Additional preservation on the homestead, including a full stucco preservation project, roof replacement and rebuilding of the chimney, will occur over the next several years.

The Pink House is a 1.5-story historic home constructed in 1938. It retains a high level of historic integrity with original doors, windows, cabinetry, wallpaper, flooring and woodwork.

The house is surrounded by a historic barn, bunkhouse, several other outbuildings and cultural landscape elements including irrigation ditches, corrals and fencing.

Work at the Pink House marks the beginning of a multi-year public-private partnership project between the National Park Service and Grand Teton National Park Foundation to preserve the entire Mormon Row Historic District.

The multimillion dollar effort will address preservation needs and improve the ways visitors learn about the legacy of the district.

In 2018, the foundation was instrumental in efforts by the National Park Service acquiring a 1-acre parcel, the last privately held land along Mormon Row. The structures on the property are being used for park seasonal employee housing.

Improved visitor services, such as a pedestrian connection between properties on Mormon Row, walkway, toilet and additional parking, was constructed in 2016.

The Mormon Row Historic District was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1997. It offers visitors an opportunity to connect with the history of the park and understand the difficulty and isolation associated with historic settlement in Jackson Hole, as well as experience the scenic beauty of the Tetons.

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or Mormons, established homesteads east of Blacktail Butte beginning in the 1890s. The community of Grovont was created, today known as Mormon Row. The homesteaders clustered their farms to share labor and build community, a stark contrast with isolation typical of many western homesteads.

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Grizzly 399, Cubs Spotted Over Weekend In Grand Teton National Park

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Nearly a month after last being seen, Wyoming’s most famous grizzly bear family was spotted again over the weekend.

Grizzly 399 and her four cubs were spotted in Grand Teton National Park over the weekend. Hunter Chip Burgess shared a video of the five bears walking on a roadway, with a line of cars stopped to get pictures and videos of the grizzlies.

“Hunted Rockefeller Parkway this morning and was treated to this on the way back through Grand Teton. Front row seats,” he wrote on Facebook.

A park ranger was at the head of the car line, keeping people and vehicles away from the bears.

In the video, the cubs seemed to be unbothered by their legion of fans, but 399 started walking away from the cars, looking behind her to make sure her babies weren’t too far behind. Well, they’re not quite babies anymore, but they’re still her babies.

The cubs soon realized their mom was gone and soon ran to catch up with her. One trailed behind a bit more than its three siblings, but the family got a move on with the park ranger’s vehicle following closely behind.

The grizzlies were last seen in April, as reported by Cowboy State Daily, which was their first sighting following hibernation. They went into hibernation a little later than usual, but it was due to their continual finding of food in the area.

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Grand Teton Opening Facilities For Summer

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Grand Teton National Park is beginning to open its seasonally-operated facilities for the summer season.

The park is working to protect employee and visitor health while meeting the National Park Service mission of providing for visitors and protecting park resources, officials said. Most visitor facilities and services will be open with restrictions to limit the number of people in the areas and provide for social distancing.

The Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center will open for the season on Saturday and will be open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Teton Park Road and Moose-Wilson Road will also open to vehicles on Saturday.

The Colter Bay Visitor Center will open May 7 and will also operate 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Grand Teton is implementing preventive measures and mitigation actions to reduce the spread of infectious disease. The park is working with federal, state, and local public health authorities to closely monitor the coronavirus pandemic and will adjust operations as needed.

Park visitor centers will be open with limited capacity visitor services. The park is also working in collaboration with concession operators to safely provide visitor services for the 2021 season.

Visitors are encouraged to plan ahead and prepare for upcoming summer trips to the park. They are also encouraged to do their part and recreate responsibly.

How to recreate responsibly in Grand Teton:

  • Plan ahead and know you will have a place to stay overnight. Reservations are required for all campgrounds in Grand Teton National Park. Camping in the park is only allowed in designated sites within designated campgrounds. Camping is not permitted along roadsides, at overlooks, pullouts, trailheads or other parking areas.
  • Park visitors will be responsible to take preventive actions as they enjoy the park. To protect the health of those who live, work, and visit national parks and facilities, face masks are required in all National Park Service buildings and facilities. Masks are also required on National Park Service-managed lands when physical distancing cannot be maintained, such as hiking trails, overlooks, and parking areas.
  • Black and grizzly bears are active in Grand Teton, including in developed areas. Be alert, make noise when hiking, hike in groups of three or more and carry bear spray and know how to use it. Federal regulations require that you stay at least 100 yards away from bears and wolves and 25 yards away from all other wildlife. View wildlife through a telephoto lens, spotting scope, or a pair of binoculars. Give wildlife room, use your zoom. Food storage is required. All food, garbage, pet food, coolers, food containers (empty or full) and cookware (clean or dirty) must be stored in a hard-sided vehicle with the windows rolled up or in a bear-resistant food locker when not in immediate use.
  • Dispose of trash properly. Follow Leave No Trace principles by packing out what you bring in, including all trash, masks, and left-over food. Recycling is available throughout the park.
  • Dogs are not permitted on trails, pathways or inside visitor centers. In addition, dogs are prohibited from swimming in any park waters. Dog owners are required to use a leash no longer than six feet in length and are required to clean up after their dogs. A good rule of thumb is that a pet may go anywhere a car may go including roads, road shoulders, campgrounds, picnic areas and parking lots.
  • Help prevent wildfires. Campfires are limited to designated and installed fire rings and/or grills. All campfires should always be attended to. Visitors could be held liable for suppression costs if their campfire becomes a wildfire. All campfires must be completely extinguished before leaving a site. Campers and day users should have a shovel on hand and a water bucket ready for use. Soak, stir, feel, repeat. Make sure your campfire is “dead out” and cold to the touch before departing.
  • Slow down and be vigilant while driving in the park, especially at dawn, dusk and at night when visibility is reduced. Wildlife is often active near park roadways and can cross the roads unexpectedly. Give wildlife a brake. Obey posted speed limits and maintain a safe following distance from other vehicles.

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“I Don’t Care If You’re Hungry, I’m Not Your Food:” Runner Encounters Bear in Grand Teton

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A man chased by a hungry bear in Grand Teton National Park over the weekend has uploaded a video of his encounter with the animal.

Evan Matthews went for a casual run in the park over the weekend (the video was uploaded Saturday) and encountered a black bear which was apparently fresh out of the den.

“I’ve seen plenty of bears in the wild, but this was the first time one had shown any interest in me. He must have been extra hungry!” Matthews said, adding he was followed for about one-half mile by the bear.

In the 3-minute video, Matthews can be heard yelling at the bear, telling it to leave him alone.

“I don’t care if you’re hungry, I’m not your food,” Matthews told the bear.

He did have bear spray with him, but never used it as the bear never got within 20 yards of him.

Matthews said he didn’t run away from the bear because that could have led the animal to see him as prey and prompted the bear to chase him.

“Being that I am not prey, I stood my ground when it charged (showing it that I’m not a prey animal) then backed away slowly,” Matthews said.

He also didn’t play dead, because that would have made him an easy target for the bear. He recommended playing dead only if a mother bear with cubs is attacking, since she can perceive the threat to be over.

Matthews added that he kept talking to the bear to show it that he was a human so the bear would not mistake him for another animal.

He clarified that although the bear in the video is brown, it is a cinnamon phase black bear.

“Not all bear encounters are the same. In most cases, I’ve been able to just go around the animal. But this one was interested in me, so I had to change its mind!” Matthews said.

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2020 Was Grand Teton National Park’s Fourth-Best Year In History

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Grand Teton National Park had one of its best years for visitation in recorded history last year, despite the fact the coronavirus pandemic forced its closure for nearly two months.

The park hosted 3,289,639 visits last year, the fourth highest number of recreation visits for one year in the park’s history, according to the National Park Service. The park was closed from March 24 to May 18 due to health and safety concerns related to the pandemic.

Compared to 2019, total recreation visits decreased by only 3.4%, despite the pandemic. 

“National parks and public lands were extremely important to everyone this past year, providing fresh air, open space and respite from the pandemic. We anticipate that we will see continued high interest in visiting Grand Teton National Park,” park superintendent Chip Jenkins said.

The top five years for recreation visits in Grand Teton National Park are:

  • 2018                  3,491,151
  • 2019                  3,405,614
  • 2017                  3,317,000
  • 2020                  3,289,639
  • 2016                  3,270,076

Always ranked among the top 10 national parks for recreation visits, Grand Teton National Park was the fifth highest for visitation in 2020, moving up from eighth in 2019. In 2020, the National Park Service recorded 237 million recreation visits at all of its parks, down more than 90 million visits (27.6%) from 2019.

Yellowstone National Park had an estimated 3,806,306 recreation visits and moved from sixth place in 2019 to second place in 2020 – a place it has not held since 1947.

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Grand Teton National Park Euthanizes Fox After Reports of Human Feeding

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Grand Teton National Park officials have euthanized a fox involved in an incident in which a photography crew was accused of feeding wildlife in the park.

The fox had been targeted to be euthanized some months ago, but was captured after the wildlife feeding allegation which is now being investigated by the park.

“The investigation is ongoing, no updates at this time,” park spokeswoman Denise Germann told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday.

According to the Jackson Hole News&Guide, a photography crew led by British fine art photographer David Yarrow was spotted allegedly feeding foxes in the Colter Bay area of the park. Feeding park wildlife is illegal.

Yarrow denied the allegations, saying that the crew might have thrown snow near the foxes, but they weren’t feeding the animals. He said he was at Jackson Lake for an unrelated photo shoot and the appearance of the foxes was a coincidence.

“The last thing on my mind was to photograph a fox,” Yarrow told the paper. “It’s not what I’m interested in.”

A petition to ban Yarrow from all national parks began circulating through social media this week, gaining a little more than 2,400 signatures as of Thursday afternoon.

A fox was euthanized earlier this week following the Yarrow incident.

Germann said that the fox was already “highly food-conditioned and habituated,” but had been involved with the photography crew incident.

“This fox has been involved in several incidents over the last year and was identified to be euthanized,” she said.

According to the newspaper, the red fox was a research animal known as 15M that had worn a tracking collar since 2018 and had a blue tag on its left ear and a green one on its right ear.

Fox 15M ate normal foods like ground squirrels and stayed out of trouble the first couple years it was on biologists’ radar but became dangerously habituated to people last summer, park officials said.

There had been plans to euthanize the fox since last summer, but he proved elusive until this week.

Feeding park wildlife could lead to the death of an animal or injury to park visitors.

Park visitors are reminded to maintain a minimum viewing distance of 25 yards from most wildlife and 100 yards from wolves and bears.   

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Idiots Taking Photos of Fighting Moose Attempt to Win First Darwin Award of the Year

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With the advent of a new year, it’s a race to see who can win the first Darwin award of the season.

If your money was on a group of imbeciles at Grand Teton National Park on Friday, you could have been a big winner because they did everything possible to win the trophy. But Darwin doesn’t always win.

There are three moose in their immediate vicinity. None of which seem to be happy. Two of which appear to be fighting each other.

These are clues — to people who have functioning brains — to leave the area.

These are not clues to set up your tripod and begin taking photos.

But that’s what these dolts did.

It’s astounding that after a dimwitted biker made international news last summer for getting attacked by a bison (and losing her pants in the process), that tourists still believe that wild animals are happy muppets that want to hugged.

They want to be left alone. Just ask the Montana man who snuck up on a grizzly in an abandoned shed last summer.

The person who took the video of these jackasses and then posted it on Facebook said it best: “I was rooting for Darwin.”

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Grand Teton National Park Sees Highest October Visitation On Record

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Continuing the trend from late summer, Grand Teton National Park again saw record-breaking visitation numbers, this time through the month of October.

The park hosted an estimated 351,173 recreational visits over October, an 88% increased compared to October 2019. Statistics show that this October saw the highest number of recreation visits on record for the month.

The list below shows the October trend for recreation visits over the last several years:

  • 2020—351,173
  • 2019—186,487
  • 2018—207,534
  • 2017—187,499
  • 2016—186,185
  • 2015—190,681

Visitors to Grand Teton National Park are reminded to plan ahead and recreate responsibly.

The park highly encourages visitors to follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local and state authorities, by maintaining social distancing guidelines and wearing a face covering when in buildings and high-visitation areas outside. 

The park saw an estimated 603,789 recreation visits in September, a 17% increase compared to September 2019. 

In general, hiking use in the park increased approximately 54%, camping in concession-operated campgrounds increased 24% and backcountry camping increased 79% in September 2020 compared to September 2019. 

In August, the park hosted an estimated 710,198 visits, the second-highest number of recreation visits on record, just behind August 2017.

Yellowstone National Park has also seen record-breaking numbers over the last few months, setting all-time visitation records in September and October, as well.

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Elk Cull To Begin In Grand Teton National Park This Weekend

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Bull and cow elk in a meadow, ALT=Unable to eliminate brucellosis, officials focus on containment in elk and cattle
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Just after wrapping up its annual goat culling operation, Grand Teton National Park will begin an elk reduction program on Saturday, allowing elk to be killed to properly manage and conserve the park’s herd.

Federal and state resource managers have reviewed available data and concluded that the program is necessary this year.

The need for the cull is determined annually based on the status of the Jackson elk herd, including estimated herd size and composition and the number of elk on supplemental feed on the National Elk Refuge. A total of 550 hunting permits are authorized for this year’s program.

The only area open to the elk reduction program is Wyoming Game and Fish Elk Hunt Area 75, located mostly east of U.S. Highway 89. The Antelope Flats portion of this area closes Nov. 23, and the remaining portions close Dec. 13.  

The Snake River Bottom between Deadmans Bar and Ditch Creek is closed.

Wyoming Game and Fish Elk Hunt Area 79 will be closed to limit harvest pressure on northern migratory and resident elk.   

Participants in the program must carry their state hunting license, conservation stamp, elk special management permit and 2020 elk reduction program park permit, use non-lead ammunition, and are limited in the number of cartridges they are able to carry each day.

The use of archery, handguns, or other non-center fire ammunition rifles is not permitted, nor is the use of artificial elk calls. In addition, participants, regardless of age, are required to carry a hunter safety card, wear fluorescent orange or pink and carry and have immediately accessible a 7.9oz. (or greater) can of non-expired bear spray.

Information packets accompanying each permit warn participants of the risk of bear encounters and offer tips on how to minimize the risk of human-bear conflicts. 

Following detection of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in a mule deer within Grand Teton National Park in November 2018, the National Park Service increased surveillance efforts to include mandatory collection of elk heads from all elk harvested during the program.

Park personnel will collect biological samples from the heads and submit them to the Wyoming State Veterinary Laboratory for testing. Participants can check their results online.

National Park Service and Wyoming Game and Fish staff will monitor and patrol elk reduction program areas to ensure compliance with rules and regulations, interpret the elk reduction program to visitors, and provide participants with outreach regarding bear activity and safety.  

These areas remain open to park visitors, and wearing bright colors is highly encouraged during this time.

The park’s goat cull was supposed to take place in February, but was delayed to the fall after there was a call to stop the aerial gunning of the animals.

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Wolf Illegally Killed In Grand Teton National Park

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The National Park Service is investigating the illegal killing of a wolf in Grand Teton National Park.

National Park Service investigators are seeking information regarding the shooting of the wolf, which was collared and described as black-colored. Its body was found near the park’s Pilgrim Creek Trailhead on Oct. 26.

By placing radio collars on wolves, researchers can track the animals’ movements, finding out where they reside in the winter and other information while still allowing the wolves to roam free inside the national parks.

The illegal taking of wildlife is a violation and subject to a fine up to $5,000 and/or up to six months imprisonment.  Additionally, it is a violation to aid or assist in the illegal taking of wildlife and is also subject to a fine up to $5,000 and/or six months imprisonment.

Anyone with information that could help identify any of the individuals involved or was in the area of the Pilgrim Creek Trailhead the morning of Oct. 26 and can provide any information regarding this activity, call or text the National Park Service Investigative Services Branch Tip Line at 888-653-0009. Information can be provided anonymously.   

The Investigative Services Branch assists units of the National Park Service with the immediate and long-term protection of park resources, visitors, assets, employees and residents. 

They accomplish this through detection, investigation, apprehension, and successful prosecution of persons who violate laws of the United States while within, or while affecting, the National Park System.

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Grand Teton National Park Smashes All-Time Visitation Record For September

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Grand Teton National Park hosted an estimated 603,789 recreation visits in September 2020, a 17% increase compared to September 2019. 

Park statistics show that September 2020 saw the highest number of recreation visits on record for the month of September.

The list below shows the September trend for recreation visits over the last several years:
2020—603,789
2019—517,265
2018—558,788
2017—482,661
2016—492,451

In general, hiking use in the park increased approximately 54%, camping in concession-operated campgrounds increased 24% and backcountry camping increased 79% in September 2020 compared to September 2019. 

Visitors to Grand Teton National Park are reminded to plan ahead and recreate responsibly. The park highly encourages visitors to follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local and state authorities, by maintaining social distancing guidelines and wearing a face covering when in buildings and high-visitation areas outside. 

Visitor services at Grand Teton National Park and the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway are limited this time of year, as most facilities close each winter. Closing dates for seasonally operated facilities can be found at www.nps.gov/grte/planyourvisit/hours.htm. The Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center will remain open through October 31. Signal Mountain Campground is currently the only seasonally operated campground still open in the park. The last night available to camp there will be Saturday, October 17.

Please visit www.nps.gov/grte and the park’s Facebook and Twitter accounts for more information. Download the official NPS Grand Teton app for detailed park maps, audio tours, in-depth facility information and more.

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Grand Teton Sees Increase In Visits In August, Despite Pandemic

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Grand Teton National Park has seen an increase in visits in the last month, with its August numbers posting a 1.2% increase compared to the same period last year despite the coronavirus pandemic.

In August, the park hosted an estimated 710,198 visits, the second-highest number of recreation visits on record, just behind August 2017, the park announced this week.

The visits over the last five years have fluctuated:

  • August 2010: 710,198
  • August 2019: 702,022
  • August 2018: 692,074
  • August 2017: 716,690
  • August 2016: 633,657
  • August 2015: 651,245

Over the summer, the Grand Teton hiking trails in the park have increased daily traffic and all campgrounds in the park have filled earlier each day compared to previous summers, according to officials.

In general, hiking in the park increased approximately 26% and camping in concession-operated campgrounds increased 13 compared to August 2019. However, backcountry camping was down 10% this year.

Although August saw a slight increase in visits compared to last year, July saw a 3% decrease compared to the year prior, only hosting 755,762 visits this year.

The trend is similar to one seen in Yellowstone National Park, where the number of visitors in July grew by 2% over 2019 figures to total 955,645.

However, Yellowstone’s year-to-date attendance through the end of July was down by 27.5% from the same period in 2019.

Yellowstone’s August visitation figures will not be available until later this month.

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Wind, Winter Storm Force Grand Teton to Delay Mountain Goat Cull

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By Nicole Blanchard, Cowboy State Daily

Several days of wind and snow in western Wyoming forced National Park Service officials to delay plans to eradicate non-native mountain goats in Grand Teton National Park, according to park spokeswoman Denise Germann.

The Park Service initially planned to close portions of Grand Teton from Jan. 5 to 12 in order to remove the mountain goats by shooting them from helicopters. Wind earlier in the week created unsafe flying conditions, Germann said on Thursday, while snow from a winter storm later in the week created further issues.

Germann said the removal will be rescheduled, though no dates have yet been determined. An environmental impact study on the removal determined efforts should be completed by early March, when park visitation is low.

Approximately 100 mountain goats dispersed into Grand Teton National Park in recent years. Germann said the animals are descendants of mountain goats released south of the park by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game for hunting purposes in the 1960s and ‘70s.

“We’ve been looking at this for the last few years,” Germann said.

National Park Service officials said the mountain goats carry pathogens that can cause pneumonia, posing a potential threat to a herd of bighorn sheep native to Grand Teton.

“(Disease transmission) has not been documented, but it is a primary concern,” Germann said. “The bighorn sheep have low genetic diversity … because they’re isolated from neighboring herds.”

Germann said using firearms from a helicopter was determined to be the most efficient way to eradicate the mountain goats.

“We’re trying to rapidly reduce their numbers,” she said.

According to the environmental impact study, National Park Service officials believe the entire population of mountain goats can be eradicated in one to five years.

“The National Park Service has a responsibility to arrange for native populations,” Germann said. “When there’s something that jeopardizes that native population, we take action.”

The National Park Service is not the only agency to address the encroaching species. Last year, Wyoming Game and Fish Department opened a new mountain goat hunting season on the west side of the Teton mountain range in an effort to allow hunters to thin the herd. Forty-eight licenses were issued.

State, national park work to limit mountain goat population

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Mountain goats
2405

By Cody Beers, Cowboy State Daily

Doug McWhirter wants people to understand several things about Wyoming’s iconic mountain goat populations.

They’re cool. And they don’t belong everywhere.

“Mountain goats are fascinating, cool, and there are places we want to manage for thriving mountain goat populations,” said McWhirter, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s wildlife management coordinator in the Jackson region. “We want thriving mountain goat populations in the Snake River, Palisades and Beartooths areas.”

“We want to manage for hunting and viewing opportunities in these areas. In other places, we want to favor the core-native bighorn sheep herds in our management,” McWhirter continued. “Bottom line, we don’t hate mountain goats.”

Wyoming game managers share a concern with the National Park Service concerning a relatively new, expanding, non-native mountain goat population in Grand Teton National Park. 

The Teton Range is home to a small herd of native bighorn sheep, one of the smallest and most isolated populations in Wyoming.

The Teton Range bighorn sheep population is about 100 strong, while this new non-native mountain goat population has eclipsed 100 animals and is still growing.

The new mountain goat population is believed to have expanded from the Palisades area and into the Teton Range. The first documented reproduction of mountain goats in Grand Teton National Park was recorded in 2008. 

Now there are concerns that the mountain goat population threatens the native Teton Range bighorn sheep herd through increased risk of disease transmission, which the Palisades goats are documented to harbor, and the potential for competition for limited resources.

“The Teton Range herd of native bighorn sheep is of high conservation value to the park, adjacent land and wildlife managers, and visitors,” said Denise Germann, Grand Teton National Park public affairs officer. “Our intent is to remove the non-native population of mountain goats and to maintain and improve viability of the native Teton bighorn sheep herd.”

The Game and Fish Department, assisted by hunters, is doing its part to manage the park’s mountain goat population in 2019. Liberalized hunting seasons were implemented outside of the park, in the Caribou-Targhee National Forest’s Jedediah Smith Wilderness.

“We’re doing what we can to address the situation in goat hunt area 4,” McWhirter said.

In the hunt area, the once-in-a-lifetime draw for mountain goat licenses was set aside. Instead, to help manage the mountain goat population, the department set a quota of 48 licenses for the 2019 season.

McWhirter checked a harvested mountain goat last week from area 4, and it marked the 21st harvested goat of the season. 

“Without exception, the hunters I have encountered have been very supportive,” McWhirter said. “They have appreciated the opportunity  to harvest a mountain goat, and to try to conserve bighorn sheep populations in the Tetons.”

The Teton bighorn sheep herd, “during the times we’ve been monitoring numbers, has never been huge. There’s about 100 to 125 sheep there,” McWhirter said. “They don’t migrate. They live at high populations all year, and they are subject to harsh conditions. These new non-native mountain goats are bringing additional mouths to the landscape, and we believe this peer competition could adversely affect the sheep.

“The bighorn sheep are doing OK in the Tetons,” McWhirter continued. “They’ve always been living on the edge, and besides the non-native goats, there are issues, too, with expanding backcountry winter skiing. The pressures on those sheep are making it tougher for their survival.”

Details aren’t certain yet, but Grand Teton National Park is considering removing the non-native mountain goats from within its boundaries — specifically, between Cascade and Snowshoe canyons — by lethal and non-lethal methods this winter.

“Without swift and active management, the mountain goat population is expected to continue to grow and expand its distribution within the park,” Germann said. “The mountain goat population is at a size where complete removal is achievable in a short time, however, the growth rate of this population suggests that complete removal in the near future may become unattainable after a period of about three years.”

Mountain goat hunting inside the park itself, or what the National Park Service refers to as the “use of skilled volunteers,” is the newest idea for mountain goat removal in the Tetons. 

“Qualified volunteers is a tool that may be used, but we have not developed this program,” Germann said.

Where Grand Teton National Park currently authorizes hunting, park officials refer to the practice as a “reduction program.” 

Rules are generally more restrictive for hunters in Grand Teton National Park, but the hunting is done by hunters licensed by the state Game and Fish Department.

The concept of using “skilled volunteers,” or hunters, is new since the national park issued an environmental assessment on the issue last December. Plans then called for National Park Service staff or contractors to kill goats from the ground with rifles, and from helicopters with shotguns. These early plans called for leaving the carcasses where the animals fell.

In March, the John D. Dingell Jr. Conservation, Management and Recreation Act passed Congress. Part of the bill addressed wildlife management in national parks.

The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, stated, “if the (Interior) Secretary determines it is necessary to reduce the size of a wildlife population … the Secretary may use qualified volunteers to assist in carrying out wildlife management on [park] system land.”

Grand Teton National Park officials cited the Dingell act in their “finding of no significant impact” decision, which was signed by Acting Park Service Regional Director Palmer Jenkins in September.”

The desire is to quickly and efficiently remove non-native mountain goats from the park,” Germann said.

“Our big things, in our comments, are that we would like to see all efforts exhausted before ‘agency lethal removal’ is the answer,” McWhirter said. “We really appreciate the Park Service addressing our concerns, and allowing skilled volunteers to participate and help with the conservation of these goats. It’s all about trying to make a bad situation more tolerable.”

First lady encourages Wyoming youth to “be best”

in News/Recreation
FLOTUS Melania Trump in Wyoming
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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

Melania Trump is encouraging Wyoming young people to “Be Best.”

The first lady this week visited Jackson, Wyoming — her first visit to the Cowboy State since her husband became president. She spent the day Thursday meeting the local Scout troop and rafting the Snake River, enjoying the outdoors and national park system.

Grand Teton National Park

The first lady was in Jackson to promote her “Be Best” initiative, which encourages positive social, emotional, and physical habits. 

Shortly after her arrival, Trump met with local scouts at the landmark Jackson Town Square. She was met by a cheering crowd surrounding the square, some singing the national anthem, others calling out, “We love you, Melania!”

Trump, who was accompanied by Steve Ashworth, head of the Jackson Parks and Recreation Department and Mindy Kin-Miller, Jackson’s first female scoutmaster, held up the Scouts in the Jackson area as a shining example of young adults and children taking leadership in conserving and preserving natural history while embodying healthy living. 

Since the 1960s, the Scouts have partnered with the National Elk Refuge to collect shed antlers from the protected area. They then use a portion of the proceeds from an annual antler auction to help with conservation projects.

Trump thanked the young leaders in the Scouts, commending their commitment to public service and protecting historic national treasures. 

“I applaud their dedication to such important causes,” she said.

Later that day, Trump rafted the Snake River, along with a group of 10 fourth graders from the Teton County School District and guides from the local Rafter X Ranch. White House Officials said the activity was intended in part to set an example for young people, encouraging them to get outside and enjoy the natural resources the nation offers. 

The first lady was in a raft with a group of five school children, while the guide talked about wildlife in the area, including antelope, moose, and bears. 

“We should continue encouraging our children to experience and preserve the diverse rivers, mountains, and landscapes that make up the natural beauty of Wyoming that we had the privilege of enjoying today,” the first lady noted.

White House officials say the raft trip also complemented the National Park Service’s Every Kid Outdoors program, in which fourth graders across the nation get free access to all National Park attractions.

Trump’s visit to northwest Wyoming was scheduled to continue Friday in Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks, but weather cut the visit short.

According to the official web page, the mission of “Be Best” is to focus on some of the major issues facing children today, with the goal of encouraging children to “Be Best” in their individual paths, while also teaching them the importance of social, emotional, and physical health.  

The first lady has emphasized other pillars of the “Be Best” Initiative in previous visits around the country. She has visited with school children in Florida while promoting online safety, as well as a stop at Microsoft headquarters in Washington.

Sniffin: Two Cowboy State road trips show state is green and clear

in Column/Bill Sniffin
Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
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By Bill Sniffin for Cowboy State Daily

Road trip! 

Is there any better place in the world to take a road trip this time of year than Wyoming?

Recently, we made two such trips and saw a bunch of wonderful sites in our great state. Two things stood out:

First, I have rarely seen the countryside as green as it is now this late in the year. 

Second, for the first time in a long time, you can see for 100 miles or more.  There are no smoky horizons blocking views because of California or Canadian fires. What a relief that is. 

The book The Big Sky by Montana author A. B. Guthrie Jr., was actually writing about the big sky in Wyoming, not Montana.  The state of Montana was smart enough, though, to grab that as one of their primary mottos. Our Big Sky has never been prettier than now here in the Cowboy State.

We took two trips, both of which ended up out-of-state. The first one headed north. The second headed south. Here are my observations:

Yellowstone National Park is my favorite place on earth. I have probably visited our country’s first national park 120 times. I just cannot get enough of it. This park is the main draw for tourists coming to Wyoming. 

There are three Wyoming entrances to the park.  The northernmost is the Beartooth Highway out of Park County—wow, what a ride that is!

Also, the east gate over Sylvan Pass west of Cody is one of my all-time favorite drives. The Wapiti Valley is a showcase in its own right.

We took the southern gate from Moran and worked our way through the check-in gates for Grand Teton Park and for Yellowstone Park. 

We were traveling on July 2 and the park was at near capacity over the Independence Day holiday.  People from all over the country and all over the world having a great time. We are so fortunate to have Yellowstone in our state. 

Ran into a Mr. and Mrs. Eisenheiner at the Old Faithful parking lot. They were riding a motorcycle to Alaska. They had started in Los Angeles. Wow, what a ride. I believe that the name Eisenheiner is German for “Iron Butt.” 

On this trip, we left Lander about 8 a.m. and took US Highway 287 north through the Wind River Reservation. The gigantic Wind River Mountains were looming on our left and were just awesome.  Next comes Dubois, one of the state’s prettiest little towns and it was jammed with tourists.

From there, we headed over Togwotee Pass, which tops out at about 9,600 feet near Brooks Lake.  As you head over the pass to Jackson Hole, the spectacular Tetons are shining in the distance – a million dollar view. As you descend into Jackson Hole, it is common to see a grizzly or two, but not on this warm day. 

This is one of the most beautiful drives in the state and is just keeps getting better, the closer you get to the national parks.  Then, on this day at least, it got a little crowded.

I was headed to a meeting in Bozeman, MT, one of the fastest growing cities in the country at 112,000 people. 

My trip home involved coming through Cody, Thermopolis, Shoshoni, and Riverton. Everything is so green! 

Our next road trip involved heading to Montrose, CO by way of Rawlins and Baggs. Then over to Denver to see my 95-year old mother and back home via Cheyenne, Laramie, and Rawlins.

Wyoming is famous for its wildlife. No other state in the lower 48 even comes close to the antelope, deer, elk, moose, bear, coyote, and jackrabbits you see along our roadways.

Some of the biggest antelope herds in the state can be seen along the route we took. Not sure we can call them wildlife, but the state’s biggest herd of wild horses roams the Red Desert between Lander-Rawlins-Rock Springs-Pinedale areas. 

Wildlife Worth the Watching was a program used for many years to promote folks visiting Wyoming to see actual wild animals, actually in the wild.  A great program.

We made the mistake of taking Colorado’s Interstate 70 going east into Denver on a Sunday afternoon. Spent an extra two hours jammed in bumper-to-bumper traffic.  Horrible experience.

Cheyenne was gearing up for Frontier Days, Laramie looked prosperous, as did Rawlins, as we sailed through on our way home.

Great trips, but a little too purposeful for me. I prefer to travel slowly and stop and visit interesting folks and interesting places. Will do that on our next trip.

Check out additional columns at www.billsniffin.com. He has published six books.  His coffee table book series has sold 34,000 copies. You can find them at www.wyomingwonders.com.

GTNP’s Jenny Lake improvement project completed via private partnership

in News/Tourism
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A formal ribbon cutting was held this week at Jenny Lake, Grand Teton National Park’s most popular destination, to celebrate the completion of a $20.5 million improvement project.

The public-private partnership between Grand Teton National Park and the Grand Teton National Park Foundation (in which two-thirds
of the total raised was by private donors) is the “secret sauce” to getting some key projects completed, according to Wyoming native Rob Wallace — the incoming Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife, and Parks.

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