March 31, 2014 (NER 14-10)
Refuge Manager Steve Kallin announced today that supplemental feeding of elk and bison wintering on the National Elk Refuge will conclude for
the season this week. The decision, made in conjunction with the Wyoming Game
& Fish Department, was based on relatively warm temperatures and the rate
of snow melt at Refuge monitoring sites.
As spring–like conditions move into the area, biologists monitor
and record snow depths and signs of green–up. These serve as primary indicators
that supplemental feeding can be ended for the year. During the past two weeks,
biologists have measured a noticeable reduction in the snow pack at McBride
Ridge, one of the Refuge’s highest points of elevation, with more bare ground becoming exposed. A snow depth gauge at the Refuge headquarters
site recorded 0” of snow cover last week.
Field observers have also noted numbers of both elk and bison
moving to the northeast end of the Refuge and, in some cases, migrating off the
Refuge. Some of the animals remaining on the Refuge have been staying at higher
elevations during the day rather than retreating to lower ground where supplemental feed is provided. When snow–free ground becomes available, the
wintering animals will search out new spring growth or residual forage from the
previous growing season. Biologists have started seeing spring green–up
throughout the Refuge at all elevations.
The end date and total number of days for the supplemental feeding
program can vary greatly from year to year. This year’s feeding program began
on February 4, 11 days later than the 10–year average. Though the average end
date for feeding is within the first few days of April, this season’s feeding
season will total 57 days, or two weeks shorter than the 10–year average of 71
days. Staff providing supplemental feed began reducing the amount of alfalfa
pellets distributed daily last week, gradually reducing the amount of
feed through Tuesday, April 1.
Horse–drawn rides on the National Elk Refuge are schedule to continue
through Saturday, April 5. Wagons are substituted for sleighs when inadequate
snow remains, but visitors can still get close to elk remaining in the area.
Tickets are sold at the Jackson Hole & Greater Yellowstone Visitor Center,
located at 532 North Cache Street in Jackson. For further information on the
horse–drawn rides, please call 307.733.0277 or 1.800.772.5386.
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Elk aren't the only species of wildlife you may see on the National Elk Refuge.