April 22, 2014 (14-13)
Refuge Manager Steve Kallin announced
today the North Highway 89 Pathway will open for nonmotorized public use
beginning Wednesday, April 23, eight days before the scheduled opening on May
1. Teton County Parks & Recreation will be sweeping the pathway this week
as their schedule permits.
fall, the National Elk Refuge announced it would develop criteria to be tested
this spring, using the number of animals remaining on the Refuge and the
potential for conflicts with migration as the basis for an annual decision to
open the pathway early. Kallin explained that if large numbers of elk migrated
off the Refuge early, dropping the number of remaining animals to the May 1
long–term average of approximately 2,500 elk, the pathway could potentially
open prior to the established date.
collar data shows that peak spring elk movements occur during the second and
third weeks of April. This season was no exception. On Saturday, April 19,
roughly 5,000 elk remained on the south end of the Refuge. Elk numbers dropped
significantly during the remainder of the weekend as large numbers of animals
migrated off the Refuge, with many elk moving to the sagebrush flats just north
of the Gros Ventre River and south of the Jackson Hole Airport. By April 21,
the number of elk remaining on the Refuge had dropped to 1,300 animals.
5–mile segment of the pathway is subject to an annual closure as part of a
condition of the agreement between Teton County and the National Elk Refuge for
pathway use on U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service property. Unlike neighboring federal
lands with multiple recreational opportunities, the National Elk Refuge is
mandated to prioritize habitat conservation and wildlife management, adhering
to a “wildlife first” mission when considering or
allowing public uses. The seasonal closure of the pathway maximizes benefits to
important wildlife habitat and migration corridors and allows the Refuge to be
in compliance with its mission and purpose.
users are reminded that animals will continue to disperse and move from their
winter ranges toward their summering sites. Animals can be wary of the presence
of humans and may respond to cyclists and pedestrians by bolting onto nearby
roadways. Motorists are also advised to be alert for animals that cross roads
Refuge Road will remain closed to public travel beyond the Twin Creek
subdivision until 8:00 am on May
1, giving public access to the Curtis Canyon and Flat Creek Roads and adjoining
the Bridger–Teton National Forest. Access regulations are available for
individuals traveling through the Refuge to the National Forest on or near May
further information on Refuge road or pathway seasonal closures, please call
the National Elk Refuge administrative offices at 307.733.9212.
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