Biologists at the National Elk Refuge just outside Jackson, Wyoming, are determining when or if elk will receive supplemental feeding, a practice that dates back decades.
They determine whether there is a need by calculating the amount of standing forage at several on-site wintering locations. Other factors include elk movement, whether elk mingle with livestock and potential damage to private land.
According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), the refuge’s management plan that guides bison and elk on both the refuge and Grand Teton National Park includes a reduction in the refuge’s feeding program due to concerns related to concentrations of animals and the increased risk of disease.
Supplemental feeding did not take place during the 2017-2018 winter due to a warmer-than-usual weather conditions and a lack of snow. That marked the first time since 1981 supplemental feeding did not take place.
Supplemental feeding is not required by law nor was it the purpose why the refuge was established in the first place.
Find more details here.
(Photo source: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service)