National Geographic : 1956 Jan
The National Geographic Magazine creasing the demands on the winter feeding program (page 30). It was not elk alone that first lured us to Jackson Hole, though the wildlife manage ment problems they pose interested us. Our earliest glimpse of this game-rich valley, back in 1934, fired us with its promise as an out door laboratory for wildlife research. We had fought our old Chevrolet up the dirt road from the east to Togwotee Pass. Our eyes swept the snow-flecked crests of the Teton Range. Between us and their summits shimmered broad Jackson Lake, through which flows the upper Snake River. Repeated visits to the Jackson Hole country won us completely to its sagebrush flats and timbered slopes. In 1946, after war service in the South Pacific, both of us returned to buy a few acres and build homes in the Hole. At the same time we acquired doctors' degrees in wildlife biology. We were exercising the American privilege of living where we wished and doing satisfying and worth-while work of our own choice. Now windows of the log cabins we built near the little town of Moose look up at one of the world's boldest and most majestic mountain fronts. Because of our professional interest in wild life, many of the sharpest memories of our life in Jackson Hole focus on adventures with its mammals and birds. We always have had pets around our cab ins: coyotes, ground squirrels, chipmunks, magpies, ravens, horned owls, sparrow hawks, prairie falcons. Canada geese, and even white footed mice. These pets, free to come and go as they please, can leave us completely if they so desire. Friendship Pays Off Kali, a female coyote, we raised from a pup. She played with the children, chewed up shoes and clothing, came at our call, and acted almost like a dog. She even frolicked with visiting dogs, and like a good dog she assumed responsibilities. One day John heard Kali barking ex citedly. Between barks she was trying to pull something out of an irrigation ditch. Instantly John was running, for he saw that the something was his year-old son Derek. The baby had crawled into the water-filled ditch. Kali's barking had given the alarm and probably saved Derek from drowning. Kali later ate four of our laying hens; we merely reprimanded her. But the wild creatures have not always reciprocated our friendship. For instance, there was the case of Frank and the can tankerous mother moose. As Frank recalls it: "John and I set out one fall day to fish the Snake River. We separated, and I was pushing through the willows when I jumped a cow moose and her twin calves. "A moose normally gives warning of inten tion to attack. Hair lifts along the back of its neck and spine. It sticks out its tongue and stamps nervously. A Cow Moose Charges "This old cow dispensed with the pre liminaries. She rose at once from the bushes and charged me. I was carrying a fly rod, wearing hip boots, and had a pack on my back. I ran for a small spruce tree. "After half a dozen steps I realized I wouldn't make it, so I turned and faced the moose. When the long-legged creature was nearly on top of me, I side-stepped her, a feat I would have thought impossible until that moment. If my wool shirt had been a little heavier, the snorting beast would have brushed it as she crashed by. Her eyes blazed with an intensity of purpose I have never seen in a wild animal before or since. That look rang a warning. Again I made for the tree. "Parting low-sweeping branches, I had climbed only head-high off the ground when my attacker thundered up and reared back on her hind legs. "I realized the moose was about to slash me with her sharp forefeet. I did the only thing left to do. Looking the moose straight in the face, I yelled. 'Shrieked' is a better word. "I startled myself as well as the cow with the noise I made. The moose dropped with out striking and went back to her calves. "Back at the cabins, I started to ask John's wife, Margaret, whether John had returned. The words wouldn't come out. When I did manage to speak, it was in a hoarse whisper; the yell that had saved me had also tem porarily wrecked my voice." Looking into the history of our adopted home, we learned that the first white man had set foot in Jackson Hole just a little more than 125 years before us, in 1807. He was John Colter, trapper and mountain man.