April 1, 2008
Grand Teton National Park has implemented a temporary public closure to protect breeding sage grouse at the Moulton Ranch lek (a seasonal mating arena) off the Antelope Flats Road. From March 31 to May 15, 2008, a quarter-mile radius around the lek site will be posted as closed to all public entry to reduce human disturbance on grouse hens and males who traditionally use the area during their annual mating time. Observance of this temporary, seasonal wildlife closure will reduce unnecessary stress on the grouse. Violations of the closure may result in a citation.
To minimize disturbance to sage grouse while allowing for bird watching, a viewing area has been established at the southwest side of the wildlife closure. Visitors may reach this viewing area by parking at a small pullout near the Moulton cabins and walking along a gated, dirt road that heads north from the junction with Antelope Flats Road; the viewing area is located just east of this road. Visitors must observe the wildlife closure signs, stay within the viewing area, and not approach grouse at any time.
Sage grouse are highly sensitive to human disturbance such as car doors slamming, loud noises, radios, human voices, and people approaching too closely. These disturbances can cause birds to flush, and continual disturbances can result in birds permanently abandoning or re-locating lek sites. To reduce impacts on sage grouse, visitors should arrive at the viewing area well before sunrise and not leave until after the birds have completed their morning display. Visitors should remain as quiet as possible and refrain from talking until away from the viewing area.
Grand Teton National Park rangers will lead early-morning trips to observe the strutting sage grouse as they perform their springtime mating dance on this traditional lek. Strutting grouse tours are scheduled for Saturdays and Sundays during the weekends of April 12-13, April 19-20, and April 26-27. Trips begin at 5:30 a.m. from the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center, and reservations are required. Call the Discovery Center at 739.3399 to make reservations and obtain information about what to wear and bring along on these ranger-led excursions.
Sage grouse populations appear to be in decline throughout much of the West. The April weekend ranger-led tours offer local residents and park visitors a unique opportunity to see grouse as they perform their intriguing, seasonal mating dance.