Officials in Grand Teton National Park are urging motorists to drive with extra care to avoid wildlife collisions during the annual spring migration, which has begun.
With the arrival of spring weather and recent snow-melt across the sagebrush flats north of Jackson, Wyo., animals are now migrating from their winter ranges toward their summering sites within the park, according a statement released by the Grand Teton public affairs office.
Motorists should remain alert for wildlife near and along park roadways, including Highway 26/89/191.
Herds of elk recently moved off the National Elk Refuge and have fanned out across the broad sagebrush flats just north of the Gros Ventre River, and numerous elk have scattered across the area while browsing along both sides of Hwy 89, officials said.
Several moose are currently roaming across the sage flats between the Gros Ventre Junction and Moose Junction, and they regularly cross Hwy 89 in search of forage, especially near Airport Junction. As the snow recedes, bison and mule deer will also make a transition from their wintering areas to summer ranges.
In past years, moose have often been struck by vehicles and killed on Hwy 89 just south of Moran Junction in an area of dense willows near the confluence of the Snake River and Buffalo Fork River. This section of highway carries a 45 mph speed limit at all times.
A nighttime speed limit of 45 mph is posted for the entire length of Hwy 89 within Grand Teton National Park, because many animals tend to move during low light conditions and are generally most active between dusk and dawn. Lower speed limits are posted in an effort to slow drivers and reduce vehicle-wildlife collisions.
Park officials said animals are typically weakened from the rigors of a Jackson Hole winter and may be forced to expend energy whenever startled or disturbed by the presence of vehicles and humans on foot or bicycle. All visitors and local residents should keep their distance from all wildlife, maintaining a distance of 100 yards from bears or wolves and 25 yards from other wildlife, including nesting birds.
Public closures will soon be in effect near sage grouse leks throughout the park. Wildlife protection closures may be in place for the next 4-6 weeks while the sage grouse are present. Those who visit these areas must obey the posted closures to reduce disturbance to sage grouse on their seasonal mating locations.
Motorists are required to drive the posted speed limit and advised to be alert for animals that cross roads unexpectedly. Driving slower than indicated speed limits—especially at night—can increase the margin of safety. Collisions between motor vehicles and wildlife may result in severe damage to the vehicle, serious or fatal injuries to occupants of that vehicle, and/or death for the animal involved.