Yesterday was the last day of supplemental feeding at the National Elk Refuge in 2022. As part of the feeding reduction Step-down Plan developed in 2019, the Refuge is ending feeding approximately 2 weeks earlier than would have been the case under comparable conditions in the past. In order to estimate a feeding end date that is 2 weeks early, Senior Wildlife Biologist Eric Cole said he compared long-term snowpack depth measurements in mid-March to when the Refuge ended feeding in previous years and used this information to predict a feeding end date.
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Based on current snow depth measurements feeding would have concluded on April 3rd. Because elk use of feedgrounds and the Refuge is a learned behavior, the purpose of ending the feed season earlier and shortening feed season length is to decrease the likelihood that elk with no knowledge of Refuge feedgrounds discover the Refuge feeding program. Over time, Cole says the goal is to increase the proportion of the Jackson elk herd that winters on native winter range and decrease the proportion of the Jackson elk herd that winters on the Refuge.