Where’s the Wildlife? – May

Sunset over Teton Mountains

May is one of the best times of the year for wildlife. With all the snow melted and vegetation at its healthiest, wildlife all over the valley is flourishing. In addition, offspring of many different animals are beginning to be born through the month, such as bison, moose, and many others.

Bald Eagles

With more open water, and with many osprey migrating back into the valley, bald eagles are much more active. Continue to look around open water, such as the Snake and Gros Ventre Rivers, as well as calmer areas such as Oxbow Bend. Also keep a sharp eye on osprey. Bald eagles will occasionally attack the osprey since the osprey are typically better at catching fish. The bald eagles will sneak up on the osprey in flight and cause them to drop their prey.

Beavers and Otters

While otters will typically retreat farther from the public view, beavers are much easier to find with the snow and ice now melted. Otters can, on occasion, be found around Oxbow Bend, while beavers are back to work for the season along slower streams and creeks. Schwabacher Landing and the Moose-Wilson Road are both excellent places to keep an eye on for beaver activity.

Black and Grizzly Bears

Both black and grizzly bear activity is at its peak in May. With snow still covering much of the mountains, the bears are focusing on where food is readily available: the valley. Grizzly bears will continue to occupy the areas between Willow Flats and the Pilgrim Creek Flats, while black bears will spread out more to forested places like Signal Mountain and the Jenny Lake area.

Grizzly bear shaking off in snow

Bighorn Sheep

A rare sighting of bighorn sheep can be found on Miller Butte in the National Elk Refuge, but for the most part, bighorn sheep have all but left the valley of Jackson Hole by the time May comes around.

Bison

Bison have reclaimed many locations of Jackson Hole, following the green grasses farther north in the valley. Large herds will maintain a presence throughout the spring and summer in both Antelope Flats and Elk Ranch Flats, the latter found along Highway 89 just south of the Moran Junction.

Coyotes and Foxes

Coyotes are spread out much more over Antelope Flats, frequently found hunting ground rodents throughout the sagebrush. They’ll also reclaim other larger open flats, such as Elk Ranch Flats and Willow Flats. Foxes can also be spotted in similar areas, though they’ll typically be closer to the treeline where forests border the flats.

Red fox in sagebrush

Elk

Into the month of May, a large elk herd will make their way up to Willow Flats. They’ll be most active in the mornings and evenings, with many more found during that time along the Teton Park Road, as well as Highway 89.

Moose

With warming temperatures in May, moose will begin to retreat to close proximity to water. They’ll be browsing on many new leaves growing on willow bushes, as well as the aquatic vegetation growing below the now ice-free ponds and streams. Look for them lingering around creeks, streams, and ponds, such as the Gros Ventre River, Snake River, and Oxbow Bend area.

Mule Deer

Mule deer will migrate onto the Signal Mountain area, where many of them can be easily found throughout the summer. Once the summit road opens, the drive frequently yields great mule deer sightings, as well as at the base. They also are commonly seen foraging around the Oxbow Bend area as well.

Pronghorn

The first few pronghorn will begin making their way into the valley through the course of May. Throughout the month, more and more will become apparent as the herds take advantage of melting snow over their migration path from farther south in the state. Look for them along the Teton Park Road, frequently around the Timbered Island area, as well as in the open flats of Antelope Flats.

Pronghorn in late spring snow

Wolves

Wolves will continue to follow the prey into large open fields, populating areas such as Antelope Flats, Elk Ranch Flats, and Willow Flats. Sightings will continue to be rare as long as there are hunts on them each year, but the open flats listed will be your best bet closer to sunrise or sunset.

Hire a Personal Guide and Instructor

Want to maximize your chances of seeing these animals? Book a Master Class with me and I’ll take you around Grand Teton National Park and show you all the secrets I know to help you come away with some fantastic photography of the area, as well as personally teaching you how and why the animals behave the way they do, so that you can learn how to take full advantage of your time in the here!

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