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Refuge announces supplemental feeding start date

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National Elk Refuge managers have determined that available forage on the refuge will decline to levels where supplemental feeding of elk and bison will be necessary beginning Monday, January 19.

 


January 13, 2015 (NER 15-02)

National Elk Refuge managers have determined that available forage on the refuge will decline to levels where supplemental feeding of elk and bison will be necessary beginning Monday, January 19.

Refuge and Wyoming Game & Fish Department biologists have been regularly monitoring environmental conditions on the refuge during the past few weeks to measure and assess the quantity of remaining forage. Last week, the interagency crew calculated approximately 665 pounds per acre of standing forage at various key sites, or more than double the threshold for recommending the initiation of the supplemental feeding program. Yesterday, they measured 420 pounds per acre, indicating the rate at which forage is being consumed. Based on the established criteria for initiation of the supplemental feeding program, wildlife managers have agreed to start the seasonal feeding program early next week. 

The Bison and Elk Management Plan, which guides management activities for habitat and wildlife on the refuge, calls for a reduced reliance on supplemental feed. The same plan also calls for a reduction in the number of animals wintering on the refuge, an important step in scaling back the need for providing alfalfa pellets to wintering herds. The bison population continues to exceed herd size objective. The refuge bison hunt, which ends on Sunday, January 18, is helping to move toward that objective. Rather than ending the refuge’s bison hunt several days early in order to initiate the feeding program, both State and refuge managers agree delaying feeding through the weekend provides the best balance between needed population control and habitat management.  “We need to balance forage availability with our need to reduce the bison population,” explained Refuge Manager Steve Kallin.  

Starting the supplemental feeding program on January 19 will be nine days earlier than average. Since 1995, the average start date for initiating feeding has been January 28. Temperatures in the Jackson area are predicted to be relatively mild until Monday and will not cause undue stress on these winter-adapted animals. "Delaying the start of feeding for a few days will not put wildlife health in jeopardy," Kallin added.

Approximately 5,000 elk are currently on the refuge. Bison numbers have ranged as high as 530, with many of them remaining in the open hunt area despite the presence of hunters. More elk and bison are expected to move onto the refuge once the supplemental feeding program begins for the season. Travelers on nearby roads should continue to use caution and watch for migrating animals. 

 

Last Updated: Jan 13, 2015
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