What We Do

A long-billed curlew on the Refuge.

Wildlife conservation is at the heart of the National Wildlife Refuge System. It drives everything on U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lands and waters managed within the Refuge System, from the purposes for which a national wildlife refuge national wildlife refuge
A national wildlife refuge is typically a contiguous area of land and water managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service  for the conservation and, where appropriate, restoration of fish, wildlife and plant resources and their habitats for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans.

Learn more about national wildlife refuge
is established to the recreational activities offered to the resource management tools used. Using conservation best practices, the Refuge System manages Service lands and waters to help ensure the survival of native wildlife species. 

Management and Conservation

Bald eagle in a tree.
Comprehensive Conservation Plan

The Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP) was finalized in Fall 2016. This 15-year plan guides the management and use of the National Elk Refuge.

Bison & Elk Management

The Bison and Elk Management Plan was finalized in Spring 2007. This 15-year plan guides management of bison and elk for both the National Elk Refuge and Grand Teton National Park.

Chronic Wasting Disease Response Strategy

Chronic Wasting Disease, or CWD, is a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy related to mad cow disease (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) and is fatal. Its origin is unknown. On December 16, 2020, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s Wildlife Health Laboratory confirmed that an elk in Grand Teton National Park tested positive for CWD. In response, the National Elk Refuge is increasing surveillance during all field operations to watch for animals displaying symptoms of CWD; euthanizing and testing suspect animals; coordinating public outreach with state, federal, and local partners; and continuing to pursue carcass disposal options with community stakeholders. For more information, please read the National Elk Refuge Chronic Wasting Disease Response Strategy.

Habitat Management

The National Elk Refuge adaptively manages bison, elk, and other wildlife populations and their habitat. Staff at the Refuge operate operate
To manipulate the controls of any conveyance, such as, but not limited to, an aircraft, snowmobile, motorboat, off-road vehicle, or any other motorized or non-motorized form of vehicular transport as to direct its travel, motion, or purpose.

Learn more about operate
 an extensive irrigation program that runs from spring through summer annually. The irrigation program focuses on producing high-quality, standing forage for wintering elk and bison.

Supplemental Feeding of Bison & Elk

When deep or crusted snow prevents elk from grazing, or when little natural forage remains, the Refuge provides supplemental feed to bison and elk. The initiation of feeding in any given year depends on elk numbers, the timing of migration, winter temperatures, snow depths, and the accessibility of standing forage. Biologists evaluate these factors to determine whether feeding is needed. Please read Step-Down Plan - Bison and Elk Management for more information on supplemental feeding on the Refuge.

Our Services

A researcher inspects a birdbox.

Special Use Permits

Some commercial, recreational, and research activities are allowed on national wildlife refuges only with a special use permit issued by the local office, and are subject to specific conditions and fees. This permit requirement is meant to ensure that all activities at the federal site are compatible with the refuge’s Congressionally mandated wildlife conservation goals. Special use permits may limit the scope, timing and location of the activity, as determined by the refuge where the activity would take place.

Commercial Activities 

Includes: workshops & wildlife viewing tours. Please note: photography and filming that takes place on areas closed to the public requires a permit. Application Form

Research & Monitoring

Includes: biological work & geological monitoring. Application Form

General Activities

All other permits. Application Form

For questions or to submit completed application form, please email Raena Parsons, Visitor Services Manager: raena_parsons@fws.gov

A minimum of ten business days is required to request a permit. 

Our Projects and Research

A Refuge biologist installs a mechanism to prevent beavers from flooding a road.

Wildlife conservation is at the heart of the National Wildlife Refuge System. It drives everything on U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lands and waters managed within the Refuge System, from the purposes for which a national wildlife refuge national wildlife refuge
A national wildlife refuge is typically a contiguous area of land and water managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service  for the conservation and, where appropriate, restoration of fish, wildlife and plant resources and their habitats for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans.

Learn more about national wildlife refuge
is established to the recreational activities offered to the resource management tools used. Using conservation best practices, the Refuge System manages Service lands and waters to help ensure the survival of native wildlife species.

Current and recent projects include:

  • Monitoring and researching the population and distribution of the Jackson Elk Herd
  • Monitoring for wildlife diseases in ungulates
  • Weed mapping
  • Trumpeter swan nesting season observations
  • Curlew observations 

Law Enforcement

A rainy autumn morning on the Refuge.

The mission of U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is to protect wildlife and plant resources through the effective enforcement of federal laws. By working with federal, state, tribal and foreign enforcement agencies and other conservation partners, we combat wildlife trafficking, help recover endangered species, conserve migratory birds, preserve wildlife habitat, safeguard fisheries, prevent the introduction and spread of invasive species invasive species
An invasive species is any plant or animal that has spread or been introduced into a new area where they are, or could, cause harm to the environment, economy, or human, animal, or plant health. Their unwelcome presence can destroy ecosystems and cost millions of dollars.

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, and promote international wildlife conservation

Laws and Regulations

Law enforcement is essential to virtually every aspect of wildlife conservation. Refuge officers work with other Federal and State law enforcement personnel and the Teton County Sheriff's Department to make the National Elk Refuge a better place for wildlife and people.