Jackson is another city that shares space with a variety of wildlife species, and Jackson Hole, the valley where Jackson is located, is a popular place for wildlife enthusiasts. Unfortunately, these animals often wander into city limits.
According to Mark Gocke, Wyoming Game and Fish Department public information specialist, Jackson and Pinedale regions, wildlife calls are varied.
“We get calls involving everything under the sun, it feels like,” Gocke said.
Much of this depends on the time of year. For example, Gocke said, grizzly bears and black bears come out of hibernation in the springtime, and that is when the sightings typically begin. Activity tends to pick up in the fall as bears spend most of the day eating, trying to put on fat for hibernation.
One of the biggest bear attractants year-round is garbage. A 2009 county ordinance calls for residents to use bear-resistant garbage cans. Another ordinance requires bird feeders to be at least 10 feet off the ground and 4 feet out from the tree trunk or support post.
“We try to clean up areas that have an attractant,” Gocke said. “If it’s chronic, where a bear keeps coming back, we will capture the bear and try to relocate it outside of town.”
Euthanasia is a last resort for bears that have become a nuisance or dangerous.
Fall tends to bring moose into Jackson. September is the breeding season, when bulls actively seek out mates and can become more temperamental than usual.
“Moose, they’re generally pretty docile, but they can really hurt somebody,” Gocke said. “They’re really big, over 1,000 pounds, with antlers.”
The biggest danger, however, is to the animals. Moose tend to rub their antlers and end up getting caught in swing sets, fencing, hammocks and even Christmas lights.
“People are stringing Christmas lights in their conifers, and a moose comes and rubs its antlers on the tree and pretty soon it has all these lights tangled up in its antlers,” Gocke said.
In these situations, the moose is tranquilized so officers can safely disentangle it.
Tangled antlers are not the only hazard humans pose to wildlife. Cars are also a major threat. Cities and counties do their best to curb the number of roadkill incidents.
“They have purchased electronic message signs that you see on the side of the road,” Gocke said. “They put them in strategic locations to warn motorists to slow down, especially during migrations.”
Not feeding wildlife tends to be a touchy subject in Jackson, despite city and county ordinances.
“There’s a fair bit going on where people are saying, ‘Nobody’s telling me I can’t feed these moose or these elk or these deer,’” Gocke said. “That’s a problem because you’re drawing wildlife into developed areas, and they get hit by cars and chased by dogs and tangled up in fences.”
Fines are in place, Gocke said, but many residents have become clever about hiding their animal-feeding activities.
“Some of the real dedicated feeders will do it in a way that’s not visible from the road,” he said. “And county and town officials don’t have the right to go looking on someone’s property.”
Despite all of this, Gocke said there are rarely reports of wildlife harming people.
“I’ve heard of pets getting stomped by moose, but not people,” Gocke said. “Bears, I can’t even think of an instance where a bear has attacked a person in their yard or in a developed area.”
In Jackson, Gocke said, there is strong cooperation between the city, county and state when it comes to urban wildlife calls.
“Our coordination with the town, whether it’s the police department or county sheriff’s office, is really good,” Gocke said. “For our town, we only have two game wardens that respond to a lot of our calls, and then we have a large carnivore biologist who handles a lot of the bear conflicts, and other people will pitch in.”
If someone calls 911 for a wildlife situation, anybody could end up responding — the city, county or game and fish department.
“A lot of times, we’re on-site with everybody: a police officer, sheriff’s officer and a game warden,” Gocke said.
Gocke believes this willing cooperation between departments goes a long way.
“That makes a big difference; it really does,” he said.