Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton National Park

Flora & Fauna

Grand Teton National Park is part of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, one of the largest protected wilderness areas in the continental United States. It is home to a variety of plants and animals, living in diverse yet connected habitats, including many rare and endangered species.

Although the Tetons' arid climate and porous soil make farming difficult, wildflowers and trees have naturally bloomed and beautified the valley for thousands of years. Alpine forget-me-not is known as a cushion plant for the way it grows in soft mats high in the alpine zone. Its tiny, bright-blue blossoms earned its distinction as the official flower of Grand Teton National Park.

Often mistaken for its cousin the sunflower, the arrowleaf balsam root is a common sight along the highway in June with its bright-yellow flowers and aromatic fragrance. Deer and elk feed on the plant's tender shoots.

Big sagebrush, a gray-green shrub, covers the valley floor of Jackson Hole. It may grow as much as five feet tall and its trunk can reach three inches in diameter. The leaves and flowers, which bloom in late August or early September, provide food for the sage grouse, pronghorn and deer.

Blue camas have pretty blue flowers atop an 18-inch-high stalk. Its edible roots were once gathered for food by Americans Indians in the area. Blue camas blooms in June throughout the wetlands east of Jackson Lake.

The long, thin trunks of the lodgepole pine were perfect for building tepees and lodges, hence its name. Following a forest fire, the lodgepole pine is one of the first trees to make a comeback as fire triggers the tree's cones to release seeds.

Longleaf phlox pokes its little pink blossoms out of some of the toughest growing conditions in the park, high on the rocky mountainsides.

Teton hillsides are spinkled in autumn with the bright yellow and orange colors of quaking aspen. A member of the poplar family and related to cottonwoods, its thin leaves quiver in the slightest breeze, hence its name. 

Some of the largest and smallest of America's wildlife community live in the shadow of the Tetons. Thanks to the adjacent National Elk Refuge on the park's southern border, elk may be the best-known creatures in Grand Teton. They scatter into high meadows and forests during the summer but come to the refuge in winter when mountain snows are deep. In autumn, the bugling call of bull elk trying to attract mates lends an otherworldly sound to the fall air. Bull elk lose their antlers every spring; new antlers grow quickly and are covered in a velvet outer layer during the summer months.

The largest member of the deer family, moose are often seen in the marshes and streams around Jackson Lake or along the banks and shallows of the Snake River. Males have large flat antlers, while females and young have none. Bull moose antlers grow a half inch to one inch every day throughout the spring and summer, attaining an average weight of 50 to 60 pounds before they're shed every year in January. Their long, lanky legs help them maneuver through marshy bogs in search of succulent water plants and deep winter snows.

Often referred to as antelope, pronghorn rove in small herds and are sometimes seen at dusk in the park's rolling sagebrush meadows. The park's pronghorn population makes the second longest migration of any land mammal in the Western Hemisphere. Pronghorn can run up to 50-60 mph, making them the fastest mammal in North America.

Often called buffalo, bison can weigh as much as one ton. Almost exterminated near the turn of the century, the herds in Grand Teton and nearby Yellowstone are today's representative few of the millions of bison that once roamed the Great Plains. Although they appear calm and slow, bison can be quite dangerous when annoyed and can run faster than a horse.

About the size of domestic collies, coyote often howl to one another just after sunset, making a wail that's at once exciting and eerie. Watch for them in meadows, where they often leap after tiny mice or voles.

Beaver were the original attraction for European-American visitors to the Tetons. Trappers seeking their sleek fur nearly wiped out the entire Jackson Hole population before the worldwide fashion for beaver hats collapsed in the 1840s. Today, beaver continue building their dams and lodges in the creeks and lakes throughout Grand Teton National Park. They warn one another of danger by loudly slapping their flat tails against the water.

Short-tailed weasels are brown on top and yellow underneath in summer but turn all white in winter. They have long, slender bodies usually less than a foot long. They feed on small rodents in brush or forests close to water.

Sage grouse are found among the sagebrush, their principal food source. These large chicken-like birds are recognizable by their black bellies and long, pointed tails. Males have a distinctive white breast and a black throat. During mating displays, males can be heard making a bubbling or plopping sound much like dropping a pebble into a water-well. When flushed, the sage grouse clucks like a chicken.