Sublette County is home to many species of wildlife including big game, birds, a wide variety of fish, and several threatened & endangered species. With over 80% of the land in the county as public land, visitors have plenty of opportunities to see wildlife in their natural habitat.
Bring your binoculars and camera, and you're sure not to be disappointed if you want to see big game! Elk, moose, deer, antelope, black bear, grizzly bear, wolves, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, mountain lion and many other species live here.
The Rocky Mountain elk is considered to be one of Wyoming's premier big game species. An estimated 75,000 elk live in the state, and there are eleven elk winter feed grounds in Sublette County. Most Rocky Mountain elk migrate between high elevation summer ranges to lower winter ranges and back each year. Winter snows make food sources hard to reach prompting herds to move to locations where snow depths are lower, plants are easier to reach, and there is protection from winter storms. These winter range areas typically have special regulations restricting human presence that would disturb them during the stressful seasons. In the spring, snow melt and spring green-up of grasses cause the herds to move up slope into the higher elevations and forests. Elk shed their antlers every year and collecting them in the spring is a popular family activity for many people.
Pronghorn, often mistakenly called antelope, are common in the open grassland and sagebrush hills of Sublette County. They roam the arid sagebrush plains and forest edges. They often are seen in groups, which can be quite large during spring and fall migrations. Their keen vision and speed are unmatched by any other North American mammal, allowing rapid escape from predators. Pronghorn shed the outer shell of their horns every year. The bony core is not shed. Both males and females may have horns. In the spring, it is common to see does with twins in the open sagebrush plains. Pronghorn are vegetarian and eat a diet of grasses, forbs, sagebrush, and woody browse. Hunting seasons for antelope are managed by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. With so much public land available in Sublette County, hunters usually have plenty of places to hunt on public land without having to get permission to hunt on private land.
Mule deer are very common in Sublette County, but white-tailed deer also reside here in small populations. One of the most interesting characteristics of the mule deer is its unusual gait. They often can be seen bounding and landing with all four legs simultaneously so that it looks like the animal is hopping along on all fours. Mule deer are usually silent, but when startled can be heard snorting or grunting as they move away. Often, they will give one last glance at whatever disturbed them before disappearing over a rise. Mule deer tend to feed at dawn and dusk and visitors are often rewarded by seeing them on evening rides along back roads in the open sagebrush countryside. White-tailed deer are easily differentiated from mule deer by the distinctive trait of raising the tail when alarmed, showing the bright white underside of the tail which 'flags' back and forth as the deer runs swiftly away. Males of both species lose their antlers each year and grow them again during the spring and summer to have them reach full spread in time for the fall mating season.
The majestic moose is always a thrilling sight, and a true symbol of the mountain west. While its appearance seems awkward, in reality moose are surprisingly agile and can rapidly traverse terrain that appears impassable. Moose can grow to over 1400 pounds in weight and up to 7 feet tall at the shoulder. While they are often depicted eating in marshlands, they spend most of their time in heavily forested areas and more than half of what they eat is wood.
Both black bear and grizzly bear are found in the remote forests in Sublette County, typically in the higher country. Both are very seldom seen, but without a doubt are the species visitors are the most concerned about. Black bears are typically peaceful, but may be encountered more during years of drought when lack of natural food supplies brings them to areas of human presence, such as campgrounds, in search of food. Grizzly bears inhabit the upper Green River area where they range from Yellowstone National Park in search of food, but they are rarely encountered. Only one grizzly bear has been officially reported in the Wyoming Range. Black bear are more typically seen in the southern Wind River Mountains in the Big Sandy area. It is unlikely you will have an encounter with a bear during your trip, but preparation and caution are always advised. Carry pepper spray and be aware of clean camping and food storage methods to keep from attracting bears to your camping spot.
Sublette County is also home to a species of fish found nowhere else in the world, the Kendall Dace, found in the Kendall Warm Springs in the Upper Green. They are listed on the Endangered Species List. This small, minnow-like fish was discovered in 1934 in the short section of warm springs that flows over a waterfall into the Green River. The waterfall is what has isolated the species from the other fish in the Green River. The adult fish are only between 1-2 inches in length and have a flat belly with an olive-black color. Their sides are a grayish green, with a dark lateral stripe running down the sides which is thought to help with camouflage. They have dark speckles or blotches on the body, and their fins are plain. At one time, locals enjoyed swimming and bathing in the Kendall Warm Springs, but that has since been prohibited. Visitors can walk down the side of the bank and view the fish in the warm water. The site is along the Green River Lakes Road, and is purposely not obviously marked, so watch for the primitive pull out parking area just after you cross the bridge over the spring. A low profile marker provides more information about the site. Please be respectful of the fragile nature of the site and this unique fish species.
Many other wildlife species live in the area. Identification guide books are available from local sporting good stores and online sources. While viewing wildlife in their native habitat, please remember they are wild animals. Use caution and do not approach them. If you see a grizzly bear or wolf, please report the sighting and location to the local Forest Service or Game & Fish office.
Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep are well adapted to extreme elevation and temperature. They live year round in the high rugged rocky cliffs. During winter small herds can often be seen along the Hoback Canyon on US Highway 191 in the Gros Ventre Mountains. In the summer, you will likely have to hike or horseback ride into the wilderness to see any. Their most distinguishing feature is the massive curved horns of the males which can weigh as much as 30 lbs. A branch of the Shoshoni Indians called Sheepeaters inhabited the same high mountains 200-500 years ago. The sheephorn bows they made were highly sought after by other tribes because of their strength and power. The bighorn is one of the most coveted big game trophies. Very few licenses are awarded and many hunters wait a lifetime for a lucky draw.