Elk Refuge ends supplemental feeding program

(Jackson, Wyo.) - Refuge Manager Steve Kallin announced today that supplemental feeding of elk and bison wintering on the National Elk Refuge concluded for the 2016 season on Saturday, April 2. The decision, made in coordination with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, was based on an increase of snow–free areas due to melting, new grass growth, and warmer temperatures with no new snow in the forecast. In addition to more natural forage available to elk and bison, Refuge staff noted elk were showing less interest in supplemental feed and were moving away from the feedgrounds. Staff responded by gradually reducing the amount of supplemental feed late last week. The end date and the total number of days for the supplemental feeding program can vary greatly from year to year, primarily due to annual variation in snow conditions. This year’s feeding program was 64 days long, with start and end dates close to the ten-year average. The January 30 start date was six days later than the previous ten-year average; the April 2 end date was two days earlier. Wintering elk on the National Elk Refuge often see higher survival rates than other unfed wild elk populations. Recorded mortality rates on the Refuge include deaths from a variety of causes, including injury, disease, predation, and old age. Since the completion of the Bison and Elk Management Plan in 2007, the overall herd survival rate on the Refuge has averaged 98.8 percent. This season, the overall elk herd survival rate was even higher, at 99.2 percent. “This is a remarkable survival rate for a large herd of wild elk during the harshest Jackson Hole winter months,” said Refuge Manager Steve Kallin. "This rivals what you might see on domestic cattle feedlots, where mortality rates can range between 1-5 percent.” April 2 also marked the last day of the season for winter sleigh rides on the National Elk Refuge. A record number of nearly 29,000 riders participated in the educational program this year, giving passengers an opportunity to closely view and photograph elk. *Feature Photo: A group of elk spend an afternoon near the buck and rail fence surrounding the historic Miller House. h/t UDFWS / Ann Hough, National Elk Refuge volunteer / Pitchengine Communities* #buckrail #news