Watching black bears munch away on juicy Hawthorne berries along the narrow Moose-Wilson Road in Grand Teton National Park is one thing. But coming upon a grizzly doing the same is another, and so park officials say visitors should expect occasional closures of the road this month.
For example, last Friday the road was closed at 3:30 p.m. to travel because of grizzly bears coming down to munch on the berries. The road also was closed earlier in the day, from 9 a.m. to 1:45 p.m., and then temporarily re-opened once the bears had moved away from the roadway.
And that pattern could be repeated throughout the month as long as there are berries for the bruins.
Grand Teton Superintendent Mary Gibson Scott in consultation with park law enforcement, wildlife biologists, and other park managers determined a closure was necessary for a variety of reasons, but most importantly for the protection of the grizzly bears foraging near the road.
The Moose-Wilson road is narrow, winding, and has thick vegetation in many areas, which all contribute to low visibility. These factors make it extremely difficult to safely manage a large wildlife jam on the narrow road corridor.
Throughout the fall of 2010 when many black bears were seen along the Moose-Wilson Road, the park monitored the situation and discussed several possible options for managing the presence of bears and other wildlife along the road in accordance with the Code of Federal Regulations chapter 36 §1.5.
One of the options discussed was that the presence of grizzly bear(s) along the road might trigger a closure.
Local residents and park visitors are advised to plan ahead and use an alternate route because this temporary closure prevents the ability to make a 'through trip' on the Moose-Wilson Road, which runs between the park's headquarters at Moose and Wilson near the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. About 8 miles of the road are within the park's boundaries.
To alert travelers of the road closure, signs will be placed on Wyoming Highway 390. For motorists heading south to Teton Village from Moose, signs will also be placed near the junction of the Teton Park and Moose-Wilson roads.