News Roundup: Avian flu comes to Teton Raptor Center; Teton Valley school district delays decision on four-day week

Plus, the future of the Astoria Bridge remains uncertain and another dry year may be ahead for the Colorado River.
Two of the Teton Raptor Center's American kestrels died of the avian flu, a contagious disease. (Eric Ellison/CC by 2.0)


Avian flu comes to Teton Raptor Center

Two long-term resident birds of the Teton Raptor Center have died from the avian flu. The deadly and contagious virus was identified in the region this spring but the quarantine efforts of the raptor center had been working until recently. 

Beatrix, an American kestrel, died at the end of November. She didn’t show common symptoms for the avian flu, but a few days later the center’s male American kestrel, Frost, also died. Tests showed that he did have the flu. 

The center is quarantining all of its birds and has canceled its upcoming programs. 


Teton Valley school district pushes back decision on four-day week

The Teton County, Idaho school board delayed its decision on a proposed four-day school week during a meeting on Dec. 12. 

Proponents advocated for the change to boost employee morale and recruitment efforts as the school district faces a staffing shortage. Opponents said a four-day week would strain parents who are already pressed by limited childcare options, and that they worry that schooling isn’t up to par as is.

Tetonia and Victor Elementary principal Megan Christiansen also said that the school board is currently searching for a new superintendent, which factored into the move to limit further discussion. 

“This is a big egg to swallow right now when we’re in a superintendent search, and it’s something to definitely think about,” Christiansen said.

The 2023-24 school district calendar will be considered on a future agenda in the new year.

Reporting for this story came from KHOL contributor Natalie Schachar.

Carrie Geraci brings splash of color to Center for the Arts

A new exhibit is brightening up the walls at the Center for the Arts in Jackson. Carrie Geraci is an artist and the director of Jackson Hole Public Art. Her new collection, titled “Where have you been?,” is now hanging in a Center hallway, right off the main lobby. 

Geraci’s colorful pieces are inspired by her favorite places in the Tetons.

These paintings are also hopefully about helping people remember that, while our actions can have a really ginormous impact, we are teeny tiny and the environment around us is so big and beautiful and powerful, and we really have to live in balance with that,” she said.

Geraci began working on the pieces during the Covid-19 pandemic, when she started dedicating time to her own art, in addition to running Jackson Hole Public Art, which commissions public artwork in the area. 

“I decided that my heart was really aching to be making art again,” she said. “So, I made a promise to myself that I would start dedicating a lot more time to art making, and that’s what I’ve been doing.”

Geraci’s exhibit will be on view in the Center for the Arts through January.

Read the full interview with Geraci here. 

Another dry year may be ahead for Colorado River

The Colorado Basin River Forecast Center said the river’s headwaters could be due for a drier-than-normal year ahead. Even though snowpack is at relatively normal levels across Colorado, Wyoming and Utah, that could change, according to the center’s hydrologist Cody Moser.

“We’re happy to see some of the recent snow, but it’s still way too early to get too excited,” Moser said.

Moser said a third year of La Nina makes a dry winter more likely. The amount of water the river delivers into Utah and Arizona’s Lake Powell, one of its main reservoirs, is currently projected to be below average this spring due to dry soils across the basin. 

The river is in a 23-year-long megadrought that has drained its largest reservoirs to historic lows.

This story is part of ongoing coverage of the Colorado River, produced by KUNC and supported by the Walton Family Foundation.

Astoria Bridge’s future remains uncertain 

The Astoria Bridge remains closed for the foreseeable future. Traffic has been diverted to a national forest road since Dec. 8, when a semi-truck crashed into the red bridge that crosses the Snake River south of Hoback Junction. 

The bridge is the primary access point to Astoria Hot Springs, Snake River Sporting Club and over 100 residences. Astoria Hot Springs is closed in the meantime, and it’s unclear when — and if — the bridge will reopen.

Yellowstone opens for winter activities

Yellowstone National Park opened yesterday for the winter season. 

Most winter visitors tour the park by snowmobile or snowcoach with a commercial guide. Non-commercial snowmobile access is limited to four groups per day. 

Otherwise, the road to Mammoth Hot Springs and the northeast entrance stays open to vehicles year-round. 

The winter season in the park ends in March, when crews begin plowing the roads. The park usually re-opens for regular traffic by mid-April.

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About Hanna Merzbach

Hanna is KHOL's senior reporter and managing editor. A lot of her work focuses on housing and local politics, but also women's health — and whatever else she finds interesting. You can hear her reporting around the country and region on NPR, Wyoming Public Radio and community radio stations around the west. She hails from Bend, Oregon, where she reported for outlets such as the Atlantic, High Country News and Oregon Public Broadcasting. In her free time, you can find Hanna scaling rock walls or adventuring in the mountains.

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