Visitor Center offers respite from the winter storm

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To offer respite from the winter storm, the refuge winter naturalist team has created a line-up of entertaining weekend activities for people of all ages.


February 14, 2019

A winter storm warning came to fruition this week, resulting in heavy snow, gusty winds, avalanches, and multiple road closures. The storm is expected to continue through Saturday morning, compromising the travel plans of many Jackson Hole visitors and residents.

To offer respite from the storm, the winter naturalist team at the National Elk Refuge has created a line-up of entertaining weekend activities for people of all ages. The programs are offered at the Jackson Hole & Greater Yellowstone Visitor Center and are all free of charge.

Staff set up a Valentine’s craft table yesterday, encouraging guests at the multi-agency facility to make and share a card in celebration of the well-known holiday. In addition to providing supplies like paper, photos, glitter, and glue, the interpretive staff created a list of wildlife puns for those looking to include a humorous wildlife inscription. Messages like “Love you like no otter,” “Ewe are one in a million,” and “Owl always love you” add to the fun of making a Valentine’s Day card. The craft table will be available all day Thursday.

Tomorrow’s schedule includes another Feathered Friday presentation, one in a regular series of informal programs offered in partnership with the Teton Raptor Center each Friday this winter. The Raptor Center will have live birds on hand from 12:00 - 2:00 p.m. Guests have the unique educational opportunity to view avian ambassadors such as owls, hawks, eagles, or a falcon up close while learning facts about each of the species. The Feathered Friday talks continue through March 30.

Also available this weekend will be a revival of the Refuge’s Animal Olympics challenge. The program was initially offered last year in conjunction with the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang; it was popular enough that the staff is again setting up the challenge stations throughout the building and asking guests to compare their own abilities to those of animals found on the Refuge. Visitors can pick up a challenge sheet at a welcome table, walk throughout the visitor center to the various stations, and complete the activities to earn a prize and Animal Olympics book. Will you be able to flap your “wings” as fast as a hummingbird? Or jump as high as a bison? Maybe balance as well as a bighorn sheep as it stands on a rocky cliff along Miller Butte? The family- friendly activity will be available from Friday, February 15 through Wednesday, March 6.

The Refuge’s most popular winter educational program, horse-drawn sleigh rides to see wintering elk, will continue through the weekend as long as conditions allow. “We’ll have to flexible based on the weather,” explained refuge spokeswoman Lori Iverson, “but as long as we can safely operate, we’ll forge ahead as scheduled.” She added, “We’re so appreciative of everyone’s flexibility and patience as we work around the changing conditions.”

An Adobe PDF version of this story includes photos of each of the activities.