January 29, 2016 (NER 16-02)
National Elk Refuge managers have determined that available forage on the Refuge will decline to levels where supplemental feeding of elk and bison will begin on Saturday, January 30.
Refuge and Wyoming Game & Fish Department biologists have been intensely monitoring environmental conditions on the Refuge for the past month to measure and assess the quantity and accessibility of remaining forage. Results from an assessment on Monday, January 25 indicated forage levels would reach the threshold to begin feeding within a week. Based on the established criteria for initiation of the supplemental feeding program, along with a predicted winter storm that could bring several inches of new snow to the valley floor, wildlife managers have agreed to start the seasonal feeding program this weekend.
Since 1995, the average start date for initiating supplemental feeding has been January 28. The start date, ranging from December 31 to February 28, varies widely depending on winter severity and available forage.
The Refuge’s management strategy includes limiting the time elk and bison are on supplemental feed in order to minimize the time they are concentrated to reduce the potential for disease transmission.
“Elk on the National Elk Refuge are in good condition,” said Refuge Manager Steve Kallin. “We encourage the public to enjoy a close view of the elk herd and learn more about them through our popular sleigh ride program.” The unique interpretive program allows visitors to photograph and observe elk and other wintering animals.
Approximately 7,000 elk are currently on the Refuge, with additional elk on adjoining lands. Bison numbers have remained lower than average from October 2015 through January 2016, with roughly 400 wintering on the Refuge. 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.
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Elk aren't the only species of wildlife you may see on the National Elk Refuge.