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Posted On
Sep 16, 2019
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Animals near Yellowstone
Grand Tetons


The Greater Yellowstone region is home to the largest intact ecosystem in the lower 48 states of the US. This means that residents and visitors alike have the opportunity to view wildlife regularly and experience the wonders of nature. One of those wonders is the Greater Sandhill Crane.



Sandhill Cranes are one of twelve species of crane around the world. Because of their captivating song, expressive dances, and complex, human-like social behavior, cranes have captured our attention and reverence for centuries. Across the world, they are honored as signs or hope, resilience, and renewal. Crane festivals around the world celebrate their annual migrations through song, dance, and community gatherings.

Here in the Greater Yellowstone region, we are lucky to see cranes from March to October. Each year, thousands of Sandhills return to nest and raise their young. They are found across the region in a wide range of habitats that are closely connected to water and cover. Sandhills pair for life and typically raise one to two young per year.



As fall approaches, families of Sandhills (typically the parents and one or two young), seek out staging habitat so they can fuel up for the long migration to their wintering grounds in New Mexico, Arizona, and Mexico. What these Sandhills are looking for is a very unique alignment of resources that is found in abundance in Teton Valley, Idaho. They are seeking out shallow wetland areas, known as night roosts, where they gather in large numbers for safety and security. They spend the night in these areas, standing in shallow water so that they can hear approaching predators. Each morning at dawn, they go in search of the other half of this critical alignment, food.



Surveys by the Teton Regional Land Trust since 2003 show that what Sandhills are looking for is cut grain leftover from harvest within no more that two miles of their night roosts. This proximity enables them to efficiently build up the resources they need to make the migration south. Presumably, they also prefer the cut grain for the same reason they prefer to spend the night in standing water – the ability to see predators approaching.



Because of the Teton River, its associated wetlands, and the agricultural productivity on the west side of the Teton River, the Teton Valley hosts the largest staging population of Sandhill Cranes in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, with up to 2,000 cranes making their way from around the region to the valley to complete this critically important aspect of their lifecycle.

The purpose of the festival is to create a community-wide celebration of the Greater Yellowstone region’s exceptional wildlife and irreplaceable natural resources and the fall migration of the Sandhill Crane. The Festival supports the efforts of the Greater Yellowstone Sandhill Crane Initiative which works to protect crucial habitat and resources for the largest staging population of Sandhill Cranes in the Greater Yellowstone and the myriad of other iconic species that call the region home.

This family friendly festival is filled with activities throughout the week including photography and art workshops, field viewing tours, a keynote lecture and film screening at the Teton Science School, and an art exhibit and panel discussion about the intersection of art and conservation at the Driggs City Center. The festival culminates with a day of natural resource education, Teton Raptor Center exhibit, arts and crafts, live music, food and drink, and stage performances including choreographed “crane” dances and poetry readings.  You can find more information, including specific event vent times here.