managers announced last week that despite low forage production due to drought
during the 2013 growing season, enough available grasses and other herbaceous vegetation
could delay feeding beyond the nearly 20–year average start date. The Refuge’s
management strategy attempts to reduce the need for supplemental feeding in order to minimize the time bison and elk are concentrated on the feed lines, thus reducing the potential for disease transmission.
returned to forage monitoring sites late last week to reassess conditions after
the passing of winter storm that brought both snow and cold temperatures to the
area. Most of the evaluated sites were at or approaching an established threshold of
300 pounds of forage per acre. The wet meadows north of Nowlin Creek and west
of the Poverty Flats management areas had the most available forage, but heavy
elk use in these areas was resulting in declining amounts of natural food sources.
The amount of remaining forage is one criteria used to decide when supplemental
feeding may be necessary.
February 4 feeding start date is one week later than the 1995–2013 average and
11 days later than the 10–year average. The
start date, ranging from December 31 to February 28, varies widely based on
winter severity and available forage. A January 29 news release includes more detailed information on producing, measuring, and sampling forage on the National Elk Refuge. Photos of forage production and sampling on the Refuge are available on the National Elk Refuge photo gallery.
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Elk aren't the only species of wildlife you may see on the National Elk Refuge.