elk

Large numbers of Elk have been seen migrating near Jackson and across major roadways last weekend. The National Elk Refuge is urging drivers around the Jackson area to be especially careful in the coming week as hundreds of elk make their way across the area.

The refuge says a winter storm that brought colder temperatures and more than a foot of snow likely kicked off the migration. Elk mainly move at dawn and dusk which makes sighting them more difficult. Refuge spokesperson Lori Iverson says migrations, wintery conditions and drivers take a toll on animals in the area.

Last week, the state filed a motion to intervene in support of the Wyoming Game and Fish in a lawsuit over five elk feeding grounds in the Bridger-Teton National Forest. Attorney Andrea Santarsiere with Western Watersheds Project, the plaintiff in the case, says concentrated numbers of elk at feeding grounds cause severe damage to land and water quality.  

But feeding grounds have long been used to keep elk and cattle from mingling, thereby stopping the spread of diseases that the two species are capable of exchanging. But Santarsiere says there’s an easier way—fences.

More elk than usual died this year on two wildlife feed grounds in western Wyoming.

Mark Gocke with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department says about 160 animals died on the Camp Creek and Soda Lake feed grounds. Most were calves.

The reason was a combination of disease and wolf predation. Gocke says they had a very wet spring this year, which made it easy for bacteria to spread.

“It’s probably just a combination of elk being weakened by the disease, and then a predator doing what predators do: they see a weak animal, and they will go in and take it,” Gocke said.

This month, the National Elk Refuge will open its bison hunting season to control herd sizes.
The bison hunting season will be divided into 12 hunting periods with a week separating each, to prevent the bison from learning which areas of the refuge to avoid.

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A study by the Wyoming Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit shows that elk are not especially stressed out by the presence of wolves.

Pregnancy rates among migratory elk herds near Yellowstone have declined, and one theory was that wolves were harassing the elk – causing them to run and hide, and depriving them of grazing opportunities.

Arthur Middleton, the lead author on the report, says elk did move around somewhat to get away from wolves, but only when the wolves were within one kilometer away. And he says wolves only rarely came that close.

Photo courtesy Arthur Middleton

Since the 1990s, elk that migrate between Yellowstone National Park and Cody have been raising fewer calves. But the elk that stay in the foothills near Cody year round and don’t migrate have been doing very well. A new study looks at why that’s the case. Wyoming Public Radio’s Willow Belden spoke with the lead author on the report, Arthur Middleton. He says they spent years looking at the elk’s predators and habitat, and how those corresponded to elk pregnancies and overall wellbeing.


A study by the Wyoming Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit shows that elk migrating to and from Yellowstone are raising fewer calves than in the past.

Report co-author Arthur Middleton says hot, dry weather has limited the amount of forage available, so fewer elk have been getting pregnant. Plus, he says wolves and bears are rebounding and killing more elk calves.

He says in contrast, non-migratory elk outside the park are doing well, because land is irrigated, and predators are scarce.

Jackson Boy Scouts to auction off elk antlers

May 17, 2013

Jackson District Boy Scouts will host their annual Elk Antler Auction during Elkfest in the Jackson Town Square this weekend.

Each year, the Boy Scouts receive a special-use permit to collect shed antlers on the National Elk Refuge. They then tie the antlers into large bundles for customers to bid on by weight.

One-quarter of the proceeds benefit the Boy Scouts, and the rest will go to the Elk Refuge to fund elk habitat projects.

Elk Refuge spokeswoman Lori Iverson says many of the auction customers are artists.

A new study shows that the decline in native cutthroat trout has had dramatic impacts on the migratory elk herds in the Greater Yellowstone Area. 
 

Lead Researcher Arthur Middleton and others were studying the decline of elk herds in the region, and they determined that grizzly bears were playing a greater role in those deaths than they realized. 
 

The illegal introduction of lake trout into Yellowstone Lake has harmed the cutthroat trout population. 
 

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The National Park Service and the Game and Fish Department changed regulations for hunting elk in Grand Teton National Park. Part of the reason for these changes is to avoid contact between hunters and grizzly bears.

Last year a hunter participating in the annual elk reduction program shot and killed a grizzly in the park. In 2011, a grizzly mauled a hunter. Both encounters involved bears protecting animal carcasses.

New research shows that wolves in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem tend to shadow herds of elk.

Matt Kauffman with the Wyoming Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit is one of the report’s authors. He says their findings could help ranchers protect their livestock, because elk often graze among cattle.

“When ranchers move their cattle into grazing allotments that overlap with those resident elk areas, that might be a time to increase the amount of attention they pay to those cattle, with range riders and that type of thing,” Kauffman said.

Jackson Town Councilors voted Monday to allow a ten-by-eighty-foot display, which could include graphic images of fetuses, on the Town Square. Texas-based Operation Save America would be allowed to put up the anti-abortion display for four days in May. But the council denied the group's request to set it up on a Saturday during the Boy Scouts annual elk antler auction.

Councilors said the content was not the problem, but that the display would compete for space with the Boy Scouts' event.

Photo courtesy Lori Iverson

The National Elk Refuge has put GPS collars on additional elk in the past few weeks.

Lori Iverson with the Refuge says that sofar, 88 elk have been collared, so that researchers can track the animals’ movement and habitat usethroughout the region.

“That information can design hunting seasons to meet objectives,” Iverson said. “In this corner of northwestern Wyoming, it can monitor the effects of wolves on elk density, and just evaluate the effects of elk density on potential disease transmission as well.”

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Researchers at the University of Wyoming are trying to figure out how wind turbines affect antelope and elk. They’ve collared dozens of animals near the town of Medicine Bow and are tracking their movements over the course of several years.

Jeff Beck, who teaches ecosystem science and management, is overseeing the study. He says pronghorn tend to stay away from certain man-made structures … but wind farms are a relatively new phenomenon.

It’s time for another round of wildlife project proposals: For the tenth year in a row, the Wyoming Governor’s Big Game License Coalition is funding projects that benefit moose, elk, wild sheep and other animals.

The money comes from 20 big game hunting licensesthat the governor auctions offeach year, with proceeds going to conservation projects.

Coalition chair Kevin Hurley says wild sheep tags have sold for as much as $55,000 apiece, and he says hunters are willing to pay the price for two reasons.

Scientists say in a new study that the return of gray wolves has dramatically altered the landscape in portions of Yellowstone National Park, by curbing foraging elk herds that prevented new aspen, willow and cottonwood trees from taking root.

Study author William Ripple from Oregon State University said tree stands are expanding in areas where for decades dense elk populations prevented new growth.

Wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone in 1995 and 1996 after being killed off early last century. About 100 now roam the park and elk numbers have dropped sharply.

The number of elk harvested in Grand Teton National Park this year is down nearly 30 percent from this time last year.

Park spokesperson Jackie Skaggs says warm fall weather and plentiful vegetation led the animals to migrate later than usual.

“We had such a good year for growth of native vegetation that the elk have remained in their summer ranges,” Skaggs said.

More elk are coming to the park now, though, and hunters have one more week to pursue the animals as part of the annual elk reduction program.

Mixed reaction to Elk Refuge ruling

Aug 4, 2011

A federal appeals court has refused to set a five year deadline to phase out winter feeding on the National Elk Refuge in Jackson. But some environmental groups say the ruling also clarifies that winter feeding for Elk and Bison should be stopped soon. Lloyd Dorsey of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition says it overturns a previous ruling that said that winter feeding should continue indefinitely.
"This certainly adds impetus to the responsibility of the fish and wildlife service to expeditiously phase out the winter feeding program on the national elk refuge."