Motorists Taking a Toll on Grand Teton Wildlife
One of the best things about Grand Teton National Park is the abundant wildlife. Seeing moose, antelope, black bears, bison and pronghorn, not to mention eagles, osprey, swans and white pelicans, are experiences of every visit. A lucky few spot wolves and grizzly bears.
Unfortunately, some visitors forget, or ignore, the fact that the major highway that runs north and south through Grand Teton -- U.S. 26/89/191 -- is within the animals' habitat and that animals might cross the road at any time.
This past Tuesday, August 9, some fool in a rush to get to Yellowstone killed a three-year-old male black bear around two in the afternoon in a hit-and-run accident. How did park rangers track down the motorist? His collision with the bear was so violent that it tore off one of his vehicle's license plates, which remained at the scene. No word yet if the rangers ticketed the motorist, but federal law requires motorists to report any accident involving property damage, personal injury, or death, and that includes accidents with wildlife.
The bear's death was the fourth bear fatality stemming from an automobile collision this year. And in the past five weeks alone 33 large animals -- moose, bison, elk, deer, pronghorn and bears -- have been hit and killed by motorists zooming through Grand Teton. Each year, Grand Teton officials say, roughly 100 animals are killed in traffic accidents in the park. On average two to three of those animals are black bears, so already the park is ahead of that sad statistic.
Yes, it's easy to hit the cruise control on this highway and watch the scenery go by. But let's try and give the animals, who can't compete with a two- or three-ton vehicle moving at 65 or 70 mph, a break.