Weekly News Roundup: Friday, Sept. 24

Miss the headlines this week? Catch up on grizzly bear management, police department updates and Jackson Hole history.
Wyoming plans to petition the federal government to delist the grizzly bear as a protected species, asking instead to manage the animals through state action. (Chase Dekker/Shutterstock)

by | Sep 24, 2021 | News

Petito Death Ruled a Homicide

Teton County Coroner Dr. Brent Blue confirmed Tuesday afternoon that the remains found Sunday in Grand Teton National Park are indeed those of Gabrielle “Gabby” Petito, the 22-year-old woman whose local disappearance has captivated the country. Blue’s initial determination of Petito’s cause of death is homicide, though the official cause of death is pending final autopsy results.

FBI Denver also confirmed Tuesday that the forensic search has concluded at the Spread Creek Dispersed Camping Area, which is once again open to the public. Investigators continue to seek information from anyone who used the campground between Aug. 27 and 30, or from anyone who may have had contact with Petito and her boyfriend, Brian Laundrie. Laundrie has been named a person of interest in the case but has not been seen since last Tuesday. His parents’ home in Florida was searched by FBI agents Monday.


Wyoming Wants to Manage its Own Grizzlies

Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon announced Sept. 16 that the Cowboy State will petition the federal government to delist grizzly bears as a federal endangered species and return management to the state. Speaking during a press conference with reporters, Gordon said there are now over 1,000 grizzlies within the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

“This, I want to emphasize, is a wonderful day of celebration, not only for the grizzly bear, but for Wyoming,” Gordon said. “We have proved time and time again that we are experts in wildlife conservation for our values and iconic species.” 

A petition will be sent to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and is expected to be filed in the coming weeks. This will have potential implications for hunting, scientific and community interests throughout the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and in three states. 

Give Feedback About the Teton River

A new survey is asking for public feedback on recreation on the Teton River in Teton Valley. Will Stubblefield is the education program director for Friends of the Teton River, a nonprofit group that’s partnering with Teton County, Idaho, and other stakeholders on the survey.

“We’re really targeting anybody who has connections to the Teton River as a resource,” he said.

That means anglers, boaters, floaters, landowners, birdwatchers and more. And Stubblefield said the information the public provides will be used to inform future river management policies.

“We’re working to just support this effort to gather more information, find out what people would like to see,” he said. “What are peoples’ concerns? What do people think are appropriate management actions for the future?”

The survey is open now through Oct. 17 and can be found at tetoncountyidaho.gov.

Town Departments Give Updates

The Jackson Town Council heard updates from several local department heads at its Monday meetings, including Police Chief Michelle Weber, who said this summer has been incredibly busy and that officers have been strained with recent COVID-19 outbreaks, the return of the remains of local Marine Riley McCollum, who was killed in Afghanistan, and the Gabby Petito investigation in the past couple of weeks. She also said the animal shelter has been inundated with animals being put up for adoption. 

“The Jackson County animal shelter has seen a substantial increase in animal surrenders. We currently have 12 dogs and 23 cats at the shelter. So, if anyone’s looking for cats, we have plenty to go around,” Weber said. 

Like many other departments that gave updates Monday, the animal shelter is short staffed and looking for employees, but struggling to retain people due to a lack of local, affordable housing. START Bus is hoping that raising wages will help, while other departments mentioned improved mental health support as another significant resource for maintaining town employees. 

Learn More About Local History

There are two weeks left this season to join the Jackson Hole Historical Society & Museum for an historic walking tour of downtown Jackson. Executive director of the museum Morgan Jaouen said the tours give an overview of the history of human presence in the Tetons and much more.

“You’ll hear about the first building built on Town Square. You’ll hear about the Van Vleck homestead and the Miller’s house, which were both home to two of the women who were part of the all-women town council of 1920. And then a bunch of other stops,” Jaouen said.

Jaouen particularly loves the story behind the development of the Town Square, which is the only one of its kind in Wyoming. That’s attributed in large part to two women: Maggie Simpson and Grace Miller, who served as mayor.

“The story goes that it was Maggie’s homestead, and she had the land and she worked with Grace to parcel it up and kind of subdivide what then became the Town Square,” Jaouen said.

Tours depart from the Historical Society & Museum on Cache Street at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays through Oct. 1. The cost is $10 for adults, $6 for seniors and students and free for museum members and children under five.

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