Pika Monitoring Initiated During Summer 2009

Pikas are called "haymakers of the mountains"
for their habit of storing plant materials as a winter food supply.

(photo by Becky Wiles, NPS)
December 16, 2009
In response to a growing body of evidence indicating that climate change is slowly and persistently affecting the ecology of plant and animal species on a global scale, Grand Teton National Park biologists—in collaboration with Yellowstone National Park and Teton Science Schools—initiated a survey this past summer to develop baseline data on the local population of American pika (Ochotona princeps). Pikas reside at high elevations (one of few mammal species to so) and although they are found throughout the Teton Range, little is known about their habitat requirements, distribution, and historic or current range.

Recent scientific studies suggest that the American pika, a small lagomorph found in subalpine and alpine talus slopes, can be used as an indicator species for evaluating the effects of climate change in western North America because of its sensitivity to temperature fluctuations. In a study conducted in Nevada’s Great Basin by Eric Beever, ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, 7 out of 25 pika populations were lost in the 55-86 years since their last recorded presence. Researchers also found that pika populations shifted upward an average elevation of 500 feet in Yosemite National Park; a fact that suggests pikas may eventually reach an elevation limit in their response to increasing temperatures. In addition, habitat models recently developed by April Craighead, with Craighead Environmental Research Institute, and Scott Loarie, with the Carnegie Institute, predict that pikas may disappear from over 80% of their current range by the turn of the century. The majority of this disappearance is expected to occur in the pikas’ lower elevation range where temperatures may exceed thresholds for their survival.

Evidence linking changes in pika numbers and their distribution to a warming climate prompted the Center for Biological Diversity to petition the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2007 to list pikas under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). While a decision has not yet been issued on this petition, if listed, the American pika will become the first mammal species outside of Alaska to be protected under the ESA due to climate change threats.

Using geographic information system (GIS), Grand Teton biologists modeled suitable pika habitat located between Rendezvous Mountain and Paintbrush Canyon based on characteristics derived from published literature and related studies. Suitable habitat was defined as talus slopes less than 35 degrees in angle and no more than 400 meters from an established or “social” trail. Biologists selected 250 random locations to serve as established points for the survey. At each point, technicians assessed the area for habitat suitability and proceeded to locate physical evidence (scat, hay piles) as well as visual and/or vocal activity. Investigators then made population estimates in each plot and placed small sensors at ten survey sites that measure temperature several times a day. The sensors will be left in the field for one year, after which time they will be collected and the temperature data downloaded. Preliminary results from this year’s survey indicate that, within Grand Teton, observers found evidence of pika occupancy in or surrounding 47 of 49 plots, which ranged from 2000-3500 meters in elevation.

Grand Teton’s pika monitoring surveys were relatively simple and cost effective to implement. Based on this initial project, there is growing interest among Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem land management agencies in expanding surveys to include national forest areas, and other locations across the ecosystem.

This project serves as a critical first step in documenting where pika populations exist and ultimately will help biologists understand how those populations may change under different climate scenarios. Information from this project will be used to evaluate the health of Grand Teton’s pika population and comes at a time when pikas throughout the western United States are predicted to disappear in the near future due to climate change.

Boyd Evison Fellowship Applications Available

Boyd Evison
December 11, 2009
Grand Teton National Park Superintendent Mary Gibson Scott and Grand Teton Association Executive Director Jan Lynch announce that applications are available for the 2010 Boyd Evison Graduate Research Fellowship. Supported by donations to the Grand Teton Association (GTA), the Evison Fellowship provides whole or substantial support for new graduate studies that increase public awareness of the importance of science to parks, and of parks to science. Applicants are encouraged to submit proposals for research of the intangible and disappearing attributes of Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks, the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway, and public or private lands surrounding the Greater Yellowstone Area (GYA).

Proposals for the Evison Fellowship are encouraged to focus on new research studies or surveys; they may include studies which have not yet begun, or which have been initiated within the past year but are not fully funded. Emphasis areas may include topics such as: natural soundscapes; air and water; lesser-known ecosystem elements (plants, fish, insects, amphibians, fungi, snails, bacteria; geologic or other processes); and social science related to public understanding of natural resources and their use or management.

Fellowships average $5000-$10,000 per project, and may include housing at Grand Teton. In addition to a summary report or publication, students will be expected to provide one or more educational products to facilitate information transfer beyond the scientific audience, such as a presentation to resource managers, a public seminar, CD, or non-technical article.

Recent recipients of the Boyd Evison Fellowship include: Nicholas Dowie (2009, University of Wyoming) who is studying the symbiotic relationship between three organisms in Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks: conifer trees, pinedrops, and a non-photosynthetic fungus that associates with conifers to obtain carbon; Emilene Ostlind (2008, University of Wyoming) who is writing a series of nonfiction essays about the pronghorn antelope herd that summers in Grand Teton and winters in the Upper Green River Basin as a means to promote designation of a national migration corridor for their protection; and Lyman Persico (2007, University of New Mexico) who is using his award to continue research in stream response to environmental change in the western United States, including the long-term effects that beavers and drought have placed on streams in the GYA.

In 2005, Grand Teton National Park and the Grand Teton Natural History Association collaborated to begin a new graduate research fellowship in memory of Boyd Evison, who died in October 2002. Evison retired in 1994 from an exemplary 42-year career with the National Park Service (NPS) in which he rose from being a park ranger and resource manager to superintendent and regional director in parks from Alaska to the Rocky Mountains. Evison was one of the greatest and most influential managers of the modern NPS. During his long career, he demonstrated leadership in conservation, environmental education, and expanding scientific knowledge to help shape wise management decisions and maintain native resources. After retiring from government service, Evison became the executive director of the Grand Teton Natural History Association, Grand Teton’s principle interpretive and educational partner. In 2007 for their 70th anniversary, the Grand Teton Natural History Association was renamed Grand Teton Association.

Applications for the 2010 Boyd Evison Fellowship must be postmarked by February 12, 2010; the recipient will be announced on April 15, 2010.

For further information or to request an application, write to Boyd Evison Graduate Fellowship, Grand Teton Association, P.O. Box 170, Moose, Wyoming 83012. Applicants may also phone Jan Lynch, executive director of the Grand Teton Association, at 307.739.3406, or call Grand Teton National Park Chief of Science and Resource Management Sue Consolo Murphy at 307.739.3481.

Contracts Awarded for Concession Operations

The Snake River meanders across Grand Teton NP,
providing opportunities for guided float and/or fish trips
December 8, 2009
National Park Service Intermountain Region Director Michael D. Snyder announced today in Denver, Colorado that operators have been selected for 12 concession contracts to provide guided float trips and fishing trips on the Snake River, multi-day lake trips on Jackson Lake, and/or guided horseback rides in Grand Teton National Park. Contracts will begin on January 1, 2010, and last for a term of 10 years.

Barker Ewing Scenic Tours, Jack Dennis Fishing Trips, Snake River Angler and Float Trips, Heart 6 Ranch, National Park Float Trips, O.A.R.S., Inc., Solitude Float Trips, Lost Creek Ranch, Boy Scouts of America and R Lazy S Ranch were preferred offerors for the contracts, pursuant to the terms of 36 Code of Federal Regulations, Part 51—Concession Contracts and Permits. Incumbent concessioners submitted responsive proposals and were selected for the contracts to continue services within Grand Teton National Park.

Crescent H Ranch, the current holder of Concession Contract CC-GRTE014, declined to submit a proposal; therefore, no preferred offeror existed. Snake River Angler and Float trips operated by Will Dornan was selected as the new concessioner for CC-GRTE014-10.

An additional contract to provide fishing only, originating from the Moose landing and proceeding downstream, was also awarded. Grand Fishing Adventures operated by Mike Rheam was selected for the new CC-GRTE052-10 contract.

Each of the 12 concession contracts authorizes specific activities, the designated launch and takeout locations within the park, and the number of launches allowed per day and month.

The NPS solicited proposals for these business opportunities through a prospectus issued on March 24, 2009. Proposals were accepted through May 22, 2009. A review team of industry experts and NPS employees analyzed the proposals based on criteria specified under the provisions of the 1998 Concessions Management Improvement Act. The 1998 Act made a number of changes in how contracts are awarded with the intent of insuring quality visitor services, protecting park resources, and enhancing the competitive contract process for NPS concession contracts. Guidelines used to evaluate the proposals can be found online at: http://concessions.nps.gov/policy.cfm.

Winter Season Activities to Begin

Ranger-led snowshoe hikes offer fun & educational winter experience

December 7, 2009
Activities for the 2009/10 winter season begin on Tuesday, December 15 in Grand Teton National Park. The Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center (12 miles north of Jackson, Wyoming) is open year-round and winter hours run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. The Discovery Center will be closed on December 25, to observe the Christmas holiday.

A Single Day Pass is available to winter visitors at the Moose, Moran and Granite Canyon entrance stations. This winter-season permit allows a one-day entry into Grand Teton at a cost of $5 per vehicle. The single day pass is valid only in Grand Teton and cannot be used for entry into Yellowstone. Winter visitors may choose to purchase one of the following other options for entry:
$25 Seven-day Pass valid for single vehicle entry into Grand Teton and Yellowstone
$50 Grand Teton/Yellowstone Annual Pass valid for one year entry into both parks
$80 Interagency Annual Pass valid for one year entry to all federal land fee areas

Ranger-led snowshoe hikes begin Saturday, December 19 at the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center. This 2-hour activity is offered every day at 1:30 p.m., and previous experience is not necessary. Snowshoes are provided for a requested donation of $5 for adults and $2 for kids 8 years or older. Reservations are required and can be made at 307.739.3399. Snowshoe hikes include the following options:
Snake River Nature Loop on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays
Murie Ranch Historic Landmark tour on Sundays and Wednesdays

Backcountry users and mountaineers planning to stay overnight in the backcountry must get a non-fee permit before their trip at the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center. Permits are not required for day users. To obtain weather forecasts and avalanche hazard information, stop at the Discovery Center, visit the backcountry Web site http://www.jhavalanche.org/ , or call the avalanche hotline at 307.733.2664.

Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are popular winter activities in the park. Trails are skier tracked, but not groomed. The Teton Park Road (TPR) is a designated winter trail, open to non-motorized use. During the winter season, the unplowed TPR will be intermittently groomed for cross-country touring and skate skiing from the Taggart Lake parking area to Signal Mountain. Severe winter storms or park emergencies may preempt the trail grooming schedule on occasion. Important reminder: Snowshoers should walk adjacent to the groomed cross-country ski trail, as snowshoes ruin the grooved track set for skiers’ use.

Skiers and snowshoers are not restricted to established trails; however, for protection of wildlife, they are required to observe closure areas from December 15 to April 1. To obtain trail maps, closure locations, or winter information, go to the park’s Web site at http://www.nps.gov/grte/planyourvisit/maps.htm or visit the Discovery Center in Moose. Winter wildlife closure areas include:
Snake River floodplain from Moran to Menor's Ferry near Moose
Buffalo Fork River floodplain within the park
Kelly Hill and Uhl Hill
Static Peak
Prospectors Mountain
Mount Hunt areas (see the park's cross-country ski brochure for descriptions)

Leashed pets are allowed on the park's plowed roads and turnouts, the unplowed Moose-Wilson Road, and the Grassy Lake Road. Pets are not allowed in the backcountry, which includes all other park areas beyond the defined roadways.

The unplowed TPR will be open to visitors who wish to walk, snowshoe or ski with their leashed pet. Dogs are restricted to the multi-use portion of the TPR winter trail, and must be restrained at all times on a leash no longer than 6-feet in length. Dogs must also be leashed while in the parking areas at Taggart Lake or Signal Mountain. Please keep dogs off the groomed ski tracks as a courtesy to other trail users.

Mutt Mitt stations are in place at the TPR trailheads to dispense plastic bags for pet waste; trash receptacles are also available for disposal of used bags. Pet owners are required to clean up their pet's waste and properly dispose of the bags in the receptacles provided. Some pet owners have left used bags along the side of the road, and when these bags become buried in snow, they cause problems for rotary snow plows during the spring road opening. If pet owners do not comply with the rules and regulations—especially with regard to pet waste disposal and leash rules—it is possible that pets will be prohibited from the TPR in the future.

Please note that allowing pets on the TPR is a provisional program that may be discontinued at any time.

Dog sleds are not allowed on the Teton Park Road or on Grassy Lake Road in the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway (JDR Parkway).

Snowmobilers may use the frozen surface of Jackson Lake for the purposes of ice fishing only. A Wyoming State fishing license and appropriate fishing gear must be in possession.

On Jackson Lake, snowmobiles must meet National Park Service air and sound emissions requirements for Best Available Technology (BAT). Before operating a snowmobile in Grand Teton, review current snowmobile regulations and approved BAT machines online at http://www.nps.gov/yell/parkmgmt/current_batlist.htm, or stop at the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center.

Snowmobiles may also use the Grassy Lake Road in the JDR Parkway for recreation. For winter 2009/10 BAT machine requirement does not apply to snowmobile use on the Grassy Lake Road between Flagg Ranch Resort and the Caribou-Targhee National Forest.

For further information about winter activities in Grand Teton National Park or the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway, visit the park’s Web site at http://www.nps.gov/grte/planyourvisit/winter.htm.