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Supplemental feeding to begin this week

02_03_14_InitiatingFeeding_Article2.jpgNational Elk Refuge and Wyoming Game & Fish Department wildlife managers have determined that available forage on the Refuge has declined to levels where supplemental feeding of elk and bison is necessary.

February 3, 2014  (NER 14-05)

National Elk Refuge and Wyoming Game & Fish Department wildlife managers have determined that available forage on the Refuge has declined to levels where supplemental feeding of elk and bison is necessary. The winter feeding program is scheduled to begin on Tuesday, February 4. Approximately 6,000 elk and 600 bison are currently wintering on the Refuge.


Wildlife 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.
 

Biologists returned to forage monitoring sites late last week to reassess conditions after the passing of a 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. 

The 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. 

 

Last Updated: Mar 31, 2014
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