The number of elk gathering on the National Elk Refuge continues to increase even though supplemental feeding has not yet begun there for the season. According to the update released late last week, an estimated 3700 to 5000 elk are now on the refuge or nearby Forest Service land. Many are on the northern end of the refuge where exact counting cannot be easily accomplished. According to Refuge Biologist Eric Cole, snow and forage conditions have not necessitated feeding to begin, even though foraging has resulted in craters and increased snow density in areas the majority of the elk have gathered. Cole says there is still significant forage in the wet meadow area north and northwest of Miller Butte. Feeding last year, Cole says, did not begin until February second.