Twenty Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep Radio Collared for Study

Interagency News Release
Grand Teton National Park
Wyoming Game and Fish
Bridger-Teton National Forest

February 25, 2008

Twenty female bighorn sheep were successfully netted from a helicopter, captured and fitted with GPS (Global Positioning System) radio collars on Thursday, February 14 and Friday, February 15 at various locations in the Teton Range; the capture operation occurred without any injury to either the bighorn sheep or the wildlife capture professionals. The capture operation launches an interagency study intended to gather valuable information about the health and future of the bighorn herd that occupies high elevation habitat spanning federal lands in the Tetons. Interagency partners for the study include Grand Teton National Park, Bridger-Teton National Forest, Caribou-Targhee National Forest, and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

Winter-time offers some distinct advantages for capturing bighorn sheep: animals tend to be concentrated in a relatively small area and are therefore easy to locate; the snow pack helps to slow down the pace of an animal before the net is deployed from the helicopter; and snow can cushion the fall of a netted animal, reducing the chance of injury.

The GPS collars are programmed to periodically record vital location data as bighorn sheep move across their range throughout the year. After two years, the collars will automatically drop off and biologists will then recover the collars via radio-telemetry to download the data onto computers, providing detailed information about habitat selection, travel routes and other factors (i.e. lamb production and survival) that are critical to ensuring the long-term survival of this bighorn population.

The Teton Range bighorn sheep population is Wyoming’s smallest and most isolated native herd, numbering just 100-125 animals. Federal and state biologists have been concerned for many years about the long-term survival of this particular herd. Due to a loss of historic low-elevation winter range, the herd now lives year-round at high elevation in the Teton Range, where because of their small population they are vulnerable to a single event—disease, harsh winter weather or avalanches—that could quickly reduce their numbers and lead to potential extirpation of the herd. Although broad scale information is available about bighorn sheep seasonal distributions, further detailed information on habitat selection, travel routes and movements is urgently needed and critical to the herd’s long-term persistence.

Growing recognition of the questionable future for this bighorn sheep population led to the formation of a Teton Range Bighorn Sheep Working Group in 1990—a group comprised of representatives from Wyoming Game and Fish Department, Bridger-Teton and Caribou-Targhee national forests, and Grand Teton National Park, as well as several individuals with expertise in bighorn ecology who are affiliated with non-governmental organizations.

Previous efforts to improve the Teton Range herd’s survival included seasonal closures of sheep winter ranges to reduce disturbance impacts during an especially stressful time of year, and the retirement of domestic sheep allotments in forest locations on the western slopes of the Teton Range. Although progress has been made in reducing some of the threats to the long-term survival of Teton Range herd, uncertainties still remain regarding their current distribution, and whether bighorn sheep avoid areas of human activity. Consequently, there is a critical need to further assess habitat selection patterns and general population status of this isolated sheep herd.

Grand Teton National Park Recruits for 2008 Youth Conservation Program

February 11, 2008

Grand Teton National Park is now recruiting participants for the 2008 Youth Conservation Program (YCP). Thanks to generous donations made by several donors through the Grand Teton National Park Foundation, this marks the third year that the park has offered a youth employment opportunity. Grand Teton plans to recruit 15 short-term positions. Applications must be postmarked by March 21, 2008.

The YCP is a summer employment program for high school students, ages 16 to 19. YCP enrollees develop an understanding of National Park Service (NPS) conservation ethics as they assist with critically-needed maintenance and rehabilitation on park trails and pathways. Participants work alongside NPS crew leaders and become familiar with NPS stewardship goals, while learning essential trail maintenance skills. YCP participants may also answer basic visitor questions and serve as park ambassadors as they complete project work on some of the most visible, and most impacted, park trails (i.e. Taggart, Bradley, Jenny and String lakes, and trails near Colter Bay).

YCP crews focus their efforts on projects dealing with rehabilitation of trails and backcountry areas through activities such as brushing, hazard tree removal, and construction of water bars and drainage swales. In addition to the project work, environmental education programs and extensive recreational opportunities are also offered.

The 2008 YCP program will run for ten weeks from June 16 through August 16. Participants must be at least 16 years of age by June 16. Housing is not provided, so participants must reside in the local area or be able to commute from areas outside of Jackson Hole. Applicants must also be United States citizens and students in good standing. Other qualifications include good team skills, the ability to work at a physically demanding job which may involve lifting 30-40 pounds, and a willingness to learn about Grand Teton National Park and its trail system. The program includes three work crews with five to six YCP trail members, and wages are set at $10.20 per hour.

As an extension of their mission to support new and innovative projects that add value to the park, the Grand Teton National Park Foundation provides funding for salaries, work boots, work pants, tee-shirts, and free transportation to and from Jackson for YCP participants. For more information about YCP and/or how to contribute to future YCP activities, or other Foundation programs, please call Leslie Mattson at 307.732.0629, or email

To obtain an application or get further information about the 2008 YCP, please call Brian Bergsma in Grand Teton National Park at 307.739.3364, or write to YCP Program, GTNP, Drawer 170, Moose, WY 83012. Applications are also available online at

Young Mountain Lion Killed During Capture Operation

Interagency News Release
Grand Teton National Park
Wyoming Game and Fish

January 30, 2008

JACKSON- An ongoing mountain lion research project suffered a setback last Friday, January 25, when a lion kitten was killed during a routine capture operation in Grand Teton National Park. A local veterinarian and biologists from Craighead Beringia South, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, and Grand Teton National Park were attempting to capture the 7-month old kitten of a radio-collared adult female mountain lion, when tracking hounds caught and killed the young cougar.

Lion researchers routinely use hounds to safely track and tree the cats so that they can be tranquilized, collared and released. Unfortunately, in this case the kitten involved was in such poor health that it was unable to climb a tree and escape the dogs.

“We’re obviously devastated by the loss of the kitten,” said Teton Cougar Project leader, Howard Quigley. “We have captured a number of cats this age, and even younger, and they’ve always treed well ahead of the dogs. This kitten was so emaciated it likely couldn’t climb a tree. There were dozens available.” A necropsy performed by the crew’s veterinarian, reported ‘very little body fat’ and ‘marked muscle atrophy.’ Officials believed the young cat probably would not have survived the winter.

The kitten’s mother, known as F101, has been the most productive breeding female in the history of the project, but is now old and possibly quickly losing her ability to provide for her young. Based on tracks of F101 and her family, researchers documented the loss of two other kittens from this litter in recent weeks.

Wyoming Game and Fish Department personnel became involved when they were notified by Quigley that a collared cat and its kitten were frequenting a private ranch within Grand Teton National Park where horses are kept. It was collectively decided that an attempt needed to be made to haze the cats away from the private residence, but that it could be accomplished in conjunction with a capture effort to radio-collar the kitten for research purposes. The two cats were adjacent to the ranch in Grand Teton National Park the day of the attempted capture.

“There are always risks associated with capturing and handling wildlife,” said Steve Cain, Grand Teton’s senior wildlife biologist. “It doesn’t matter if tranquilizer darts, net-guns, or baited traps are being used, losing an animal is a possibility that we take very seriously and go to extreme efforts to mitigate. By carefully evaluating the need for science, the risk of research to wildlife, and the qualifications of animal handlers, we help ensure that research-related animal deaths remain rare events.”

The Wyoming Game and Fish and Grand Teton National Park support the research being done by Craighead Beringia South and commend them for their professionalism and vital research data. “While we’re all disappointed in the loss of this kitten, we will continue to support the work of the Teton Cougar Project,” said Tim Fuchs, Jackson District Supervisor for Wyoming Game and Fish. “This research has provided us with valuable information with regard to lion distribution, recruitment, survival and predation.”

Game and Fish officials said they will continue to work cooperatively with researchers of the Teton Cougar Project to monitor the location of the collared female cat.