As part of ongoing disease management efforts, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists, in consultation with the Wyoming Game & Fish Department, announced plans today to end supplemental feeding for bison and elk on the National Elk Refuge today.
This year’s feeding season began on January 7, approximately 2½ weeks earlier than average. This earlier feed date was due in part to heavier snow depth and density than is typically seen in early January.
Approximately 8,900 elk, roughly 80% of the Jackson Elk Herd, wintered on the Refuge this season. This represents the highest number of elk wintering on the Refuge since 1997.
These two conditions – the earlier feeding date and the high numbers of wintering elk – have wildlife managers concerned about the possible presence and transmission of disease. Septicemic pasteurellosis and foot rot are two common diseases that can spread across a herd in these conditions.
To help prevent these diseases, wildlife managers strive to provide alfalfa pellets on the cleanest, driest ground within the supplemental feeding areas on the Refuge. Visual surveys and GPS equipment also aid managers in their continual efforts to identify the cleanest available locations.
When standing forage again becomes readily available and enough spring green-up occurs to support the number of elk present on the Refuge, supplemental feeding is typically scaled back and then terminated for the year. These activities encourage elk to spread out and feed on clean ground adjacent to the feed grounds, thus reducing the risk of disease.
After carefully evaluating available standing forage as well as elk and bison movements, wildlife managers have determined that supplemental feeding is no longer needed for the year. Accordingly, supplemental feeding will discontinue for the year beginning this Thursday, March 23 2017.
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