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The National Elk Refuge
The National Elk Refuge in Jackson, Wyoming. It's history and purpose.

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For hundreds of years, nearly 25,000 elk migrated from the mountains to the valley in the winter, where they were still able to get through the snows to the grass underneath. Then just over 100 years ago the valley began to be settled. These migrating elk found their journey blocked by fences and homesteads, and the grasses they used to eat were now harvested and put into haystacks for the farmers cattle.
Even before the homesteaders came, some elk would starve during a hard winter. In the years 1909,1910, and 1911 the winters were very cold, and the snow was so deep, and the valley filled with farmers and ranchers, that disaster was inevitable. Elk began to starve in horrifying numbers. As a result from their starving condition, the elk soon lost their fear of humans. It is reported that some tried to jump through the barn windows in order to eat with the cattle.
Some of the ranchers and farmers tried to help by spreading out haystacks for the elk. But that wasn't enough with the thousands of starving elk. Nearly 3/4 of the elk calves never made it through their first winter. One settler said that he could walk for a mile on elk bodies without ever stepping off.
After those terrible winters the people of Jackson went to the government for help. In 1912, Congress gave money to buy 2760 acres of land for The National Elk Refuge. Today the National Elk Refuge is nearly 25,000 acres. And all these miles of hills, and plains are only 1/4 of what the elk used to call their winter home.
The National Elk Refuge is located just north east of the town of Jackson, Wyoming. The elk refuge provides a winter home for more than 7,500 elk, making it one of the largest wintering concentrations of elk that can be found anywhere. The refuge is the only one in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service devoted primarily to elk management. The elk refuge consists of nearly 25,000 acres of land, having native grasses and other elk forage. The elk refuge consists of meadows and marshes along the valley floor, and sagebrush and rock outcroppings along the foothills. Elk are on the refuge from the middle of October through April. Most of the elk on the refuge are between 3 years and 10 years old. The oldest elk was a 30 year old female and the oldest male was 18 years old. During the hard times of winter, the elk are supplemented with alfalfa hay pellets. The winter mortality rate on the refuge is about 1.5%.
Hunting is a management tool to help regulate the number of elk on the winter range. For information regarding hunting seasons and regulations, contact the refuge headquarters in the town of Jackson, Wyoming at 675 E. Broadway (307)733-9212
The office is open year round Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
In addition to elk, other species such as moose, bighorn sheep, bison, mule deer, coyotes, badgers, and Unita ground squirrels, muskrats, beaver, porcupines, longtail weasels, and voles or meadow mice. can be observed on the refuge. Nearly 175 spieces of birds have been observed on the Refuge, including eagles, and hawks. Waterfowl commonly seen on pond and marsh areas include the mallard, pintail, gadwall, Barrow's goldeneye, bufflehead, green-winged and cinnamon teal and Canada geese. Trumpeter Swans can be observed from a turnout along US Highway 26, north of the Town of Jackson also.

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