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WILDLIFE

Winter backcountry recreationists are venturing farther afield into the Teton high country. Many frequented areas are habitat for a population of threatened bighorn sheep, and recent research, linked here, indicates that the sheep are likely avoiding areas where there is high backcountry skiing activity.

Humans and pets of all shapes, sizes, and recreational interests influence wildlife behavior.

The magnitude of that influence will always be difficult to quantify. We do know that even if animals don’t move, their heart rates and energy consumption can increase when exposed to unfamiliar sounds, sights, and movements. Even those of us with the best of intentions can cause unintended stress. Whether it’s an early subzero spell in November or one last May snow squall, an animal’s chances of surviving winter can hinge on our understanding and respect of seasonal or winter wildlife closures.

- Teton Conservation District
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TETON BIG HORN SHEEP

TBCA Initiatives

  • Raising awareness (Ongoing): TBCA is working with Teton winter mountain guides and bighorn sheep advocates to raise awareness on the issue, establish a set of best practices, and share bighorn sheep observations.

  • Denizens of the Steep film (February 16, 2021): TBCA supported production of the short film Denizens of the Steep, which won the 2021 Conservation Media Award. The film is produced by Josh Metten and features ski mountaineer Kim Havell, both of whom are TBCA Steering Committee members.

  • Community workshops (February 13th, 20th and March 5th, 2020): TBCA was a financial sponsor which helped the Teton Sheep Working Group host a series of three collaborative community workshops. The workshops developed community-based recommendations for protecting sheep while preserving opportunities for backcountry skiing. Biologist presentation recordings and the brainstormed management recommendations can be found here. TBCA looks forward to working with the Teton Sheep Working Group in the future.

  • Public gathering (November 15, 2019): TBCA hosted a public gathering including ~45 Teton backcountry skiers & boarders, and non-profit and agency staffers. Presentations by agency biologists summarized the status of the Teton Bighorn Sheep herd and what is known about the effects of human disturbance on the population. TBCA Steering Committee members Jay Pistono and Tom Turiano shared their experiences and perspectives on the topic. Formal presentations were followed by a constructive open discussion about how to best balance backcountry recreation and bighorn sheep conservation in the Tetons.

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