Jackson Hole Wildlife Expeditions
As Fall colors and temps peak in Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Park, animals begin to migrate to lower elevations, giving spectators prime seats for the show. Signing up for a guided tour with Wildlife Expeditions offers a unique and educational way to enjoy the vast amount of wildlife in the region. Let your guide do the driving and animal spotting as you sit back and enjoy the scenery.
I chose to do a sunset expedition, which runs about four hours and visits Grand Teton National park and outlying national forest areas. Each guide chooses a unique route to take that is based on the latest animal activity and hidden spots visitors might not be aware of.
My small group of three (group size varies but can be anywhere from 2-10 people) was led by two excellent guides, Lynette and Kevin. We drove out of town and stopped at the National Elk Refuge and although the elk have not began to migrate, it was full of trumpter swams, geese, and many different species of ducks. While we were stopped, Lynette went over basic safety rules, welcomed any questions throughout the trip, and told us to yell out if we saw something, even if it ends up being a rock. The guides also supplied binoculars for each person in the group, which are handy for studying details and getting an up-close view from the safety of the van. The van is equipped with sliding windows at every seat and roof hatches, so there are really no bad seats and always good shots for photographers.
Lynette, our guide, decided to head along the Gros Ventre River where wildlife can be abundant and traffic can be minimal. Our first wildlife spotting was a group of amazing pronghorn, which we soon learned how amazing they are from Lynette and Kevin’s extensive knowledge of pronghorns. In each expedition van the guides carry a rubbermaid container full of wildlife goodies and Lynette quickly pulled out a replica of a pronghorn skull, horn and a pelt of fur.
The tour continued and I was blown away from the amount of knowledge I was learning about each animal we saw and interesting facts on Jackson Hole wildlife. We soon came upon a herd of bison and were able to get out of the van to watch them pass near us. The guides set up two scopes, so we could see the animals up-close and really enjoy all the details. The walkie-talkie beeped and it was another guide informing us that there was activity on Moose-Wilson Road. Since every guide takes different routes they are able to call each other about animal sightings, so your tour is full of wildlife.
As we were driving along a dirt road, Lynette all of sudden stopped the van and asked everyone to get out in a very excited voice. We had come upon a very large portion of bear ‘scat’ which we were able to examine and it was full of all types of berries. The guides talked about tracking bears and how the skat was very recent so there could be a bear in the area, it was all very exciting. After a few more animal sightings (moose, elk and coyotes) the tour ended and we headed back into town.
In my group was, Ed and Vicki from Salem, North Carolina, who were on a cross-country dream trip enjoying national parks and must-see sights throughout the country. Ed wanted, after driving for many weeks, to enjoy the scenery and wildlife without having to drive and get an educated local perspective on the area. Ed agreed Wildlife Expeditions is an “excellent way to see wildlife and have an overview of Jackson Hole with two professionals who truly love what they do.”
Wildlife Expeditions is a branch Teton Science Schools, which is a non-profit organization that educates and excites people about the natural world. The surplus from the rates for a wildlife expedition all help fund the Teton Science Schools, which is an excellent way to support the local community. There are many different expeditions you can take year round in the parks, which vary from a few hours to a few days. For example, in the winter months, they offer the ‘Winter Wolves of Yellowstone Expedition” which is a four day excursion and includes a snowcoach ride and hotel stays in Yellowstone. September is a great time to do a sunset tour because the season has slowed down and nature is getting ready for winter. Whatever tour you decide to take, a wildlife expedition a great idea when coming to Jackson. Not only do you get to see the majestic national parks, you also gain the education and an unforgettable experience.