Magical Mustelids

Environment, Jackson Hole, Wildlife

Tags: , , ,

Grand Teton National Park is home to many types of small mammals, including the Magical Mustelids. This family of fearless carnivores includes badgers, fishers, martens, mink, river otters, wolverines, and three weasels: the least weasel, the long-tailed weasel, and the short-tailed weasel or ermine.

A nice brown coat for summer.

The short-tailed weasel measures between 7 and 13 inches including the tail, and despite their diminutive size, they really believe themselves to be quite tough. I remember one little guy I saw while hiking with some clients along the river – he bravely held the trail against four much-larger mammals, and would not let us pass. It turns out the weasel symbolizes courage in many Native American cultures. Even though they are small and only weigh up to 12 ounces they will readily attack larger animals. They are effective hunters, preying mostly on mice and voles. (Researchers rely on the presence of weasels as an indicator of an abundant rodent population.) They are also terrific climbers, so our avian friends are not immune to their predatory survival strategies.

How does the little short-tailed weasel survive the long cold winters in Jackson Hole? Food, shelter, and companionship are critical. With their long bodies, low weight, and lack of body fat, weasels have some distinct disadvantages during the long winter months. They must keep warm by eating up to 40 percent of their weight every day, and may occasionally engage in “killing sprees” so that they can storing leftovers as a hedge against days without any kills. They use up a lot of energy during a hunting day, covering as many as three miles in their quest for prey. How does the Small-tailed weasel negotiate the winter landscape? …continue reading Magical Mustelids

When Interpretation Goes South

Barker-Ewing, Jackson Hole, Rafting, Wildlife

Tags: , , , , ,

When Interpretation Goes South

River Otter
Last seen swimming the “otter way.”

Over the years I have witnessed and participated in the famous Western propensity to spin yarns about almost any subject. “Where is the hole?” is our version of the age old Snipe hunt. And though tourists may expect some measure of abuse at the hands of “the locals,” I’m keenly aware that the captive audience in my raft is experiencing something truly magical for the very first time, and hopes to learn something from it. My job? I’m a Barker-Ewing boatman. Which means that, in addition to navigating the river safely, I’m also an entertainer. And a tour guide. And a teacher. And it serves me well to remember this.

I confess to having occasionally invented a tale or let loose a pun in a less-than-ideal situation – a habit I may have picked up from one of the many experienced purveyors of bad taste who ply these particular waters. If I’m lucky enough to spot a river otter from the raft, I’ll share loads of information about their habitat and behavior. But I also might mention that otters are rarely sighted, due to the meandering characteristics of this riparian environment. By which I mean that we’re floating one way, while the otters are swimming the otter way. Boom! Yes, puns are the lowest form of humor. And my poor captives never seem to see them coming. …continue reading When Interpretation Goes South

Wapiti Wilderness

Barker-Ewing, Environment, Jackson Hole, Rafting, Wildlife

Tags: , , , , ,

Olaus_and_Mardy_MurieI grew up in Jackson Hole in the shadow of the Tetons, and spent vast stretches of my childhood wandering the wapiti wilderness. I waded through Ditch Creek, explored the caves and crags on Blacktail Butte, and rode my little horse for miles across sagebrush flats. Lucky for me, my neighborhood north of town was also home to some of the most famous naturalists and anthropologists of the time: the Craigheads, whose decade-long study of Grizzlies in Yellowstone pioneered advances in wildlife ecology and conservation; the Laubins, who studied the lifeways of the Plains Indians and wrote several famous books about tipis, dances and archery; and Mardy Murie, considered by many to be the founder of the modern conservation movement; all lived within a couple of miles of my house, and were as much a part of my childhood landscape as the mountains themselves. …continue reading Wapiti Wilderness

Winners of the 2015 Barker-Ewing Photo Contest

Barker-Ewing, Jackson Hole, Rafting, Wildlife

Tags: , , , , ,

The-Last-Great-Wild-Places-cover-smAfter days of hard work, Mr. Tom Mangelsen – our illustrious, esteemed, and impartial photo judge – has decided on the winners of the Second Annual Barker-Ewing Photo Contest. He deliberated over many customer photo entries in not one but two categories. We added a landscape category this year because, in addition to world-class wildlife viewing, Jackson Hole is justifiably famous for its scenery. The winners of the contest are each receiving a signed copy of Tom’s latest book, The Last Great Wild Places.

The winner of our Wildlife category is Dee Anna Piatek from Marble Falls, Texas with this amazing close-up of an immature eagle. You can almost hear the wind rustling through its feathers. Terrific shot, Dee Anna! DSC_0136

The winner of our new Landscape category is Jim Betz from Livonia, Michigan. He captured a view that I’ve seen nearly 2,500 times over two decades of floating the Snake. It’s such a dramatic moment, and I’ve never tired of it. I know how this particular spot on the river looks, smells, feels, and sounds. Great work, Jim!DSC_3994

Congratulations, and well done to both of our contest winners! And a sincere thank you to everyone who took the time to send us photos from your vacations in this wonderful wild place. We enjoyed seeing our beautiful valley through your eyes. It reminds us how lucky we are to live and work in this corner of Wyoming, with Grand Teton National Park on our doorstep and Yellowstone just up the road. We hope that you all enjoyed your trips to our mountain home, and that you’ll return again soon!

Unidentified Flying Objects

Barker-Ewing, Environment, Hiking & Climbing, Rafting, Wildlife

Tags: , , , , , ,

Green-tailed_TowheeAs we navigate our stretch of the Snake River in Grand Teton National Park, Barker-Ewing guides are constantly on the lookout for wildlife. Moose, Mule Deer, and Elk make their homes in the spruce and cottonwood forests along the riverbank and are relatively easy to spot. I’ve frequently had Pronghorn Antelope, Bison, Otters and Beaver swim the river within sight of my boat, and I’ve been lucky to spot Grizzly and Black Bears about once a season.

Bald Eagles, Osprey, Red-tailed Hawks, Sand Hill Cranes, Great Blue Herons, Canada Geese, Mergansers, Ravens, all make appearances along the river, and are easy to identify. But we often float past smaller birds that pose an identification challenge. Luckily, we’ve got many resources in the Barker-Ewing boathouse to help us assign names to these UFOs.

…continue reading Unidentified Flying Objects