North 89 pathway remains closed for public use

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Despite recent warmer weather and snow melt on the North 89 pathway, the multi-use lane paralleling the National Elk Refuge's west boundary remains closed to public use.


photo credit: Mark Gocke


April 18, 2019 (NER 19-03)

Despite recent warmer weather and snow melt on the North 89 pathway, the multi-use lane paralleling the National Elk Refuge's west boundary remains closed to public use. Cyclists and pedestrians are asked to respect the North 89 pathway closure through April 30 to maximize benefits to wildlife, habitat, and migration corridors.

The opening and closing of the pathway is coordinated with Jackson Hole Community Pathways and the Teton County Parks & Recreation Department. Managers use the number of elk remaining on the Refuge and the potential for migration conflicts as the basis for an annual decision to open the pathway as early as April 15. If the number of remaining elk stabilizes to the May 1 long-term average of approximately 2,500 elk or less, an opening earlier than April 30 is considered.

GPS collar data shows that peak spring elk movements typically occur during the second and third weeks of April. However, the Jackson Hole valley experienced record snowfall totals this winter, in some cases delaying spring green-up that would draw elk to other areas. So far this spring, wildlife managers have seen very little movement of elk from the National Elk Refuge to their summer ranges. An elk survey earlier this week noted nearly 6,200 elk still remained on the Refuge.

Even though many of the remaining 6,200 elk may be some distance from the fence line, the increased presence of humans can deter their natural tendencies to migrate. "Elk react differently to people than they do with cars on the highway," explained Refuge Manager Brian Glaspell. "We don't want to do anything that would compromise their dispersal or prevent their natural inclination to leave their winter range." Glaspell added that the management decision to open the pathway is based on the migration of the herd as a whole and what will provide the greatest benefit to wildlife. "We can't quickly open and close the pathway whenever small groups of elk move closer to or away from the pathway."

Though unauthorized use of the pathway is tempting for cyclists and pedestrians to get in early season exercise, the public is asked to recognize the value of the pathway and its availability for so many months of the year. "It's one more way our community can demonstrate a respect and commitment to living compatibly with Jackson's wildlife," Glaspell said. The pathway is open each season through October 31.