More pronghorns than people in Wyoming

While pronghorn are the fastest running mammals in the Lower 48 States at 60 mph, they just can’t jump a fence!  Their forelegs are configured such that they will not  even consider such a jump.   Born to run, they are often referred to as “speed goats”.

Since they cannot jump, pronghorn choose to crawl under fences.  Thus, their 150 mile migration from Grand Teton National Park to the southerly Green River Range in WY used to be quite risky.  Along this route, pronghorns used to suffer many fatal collisions with vehicles.  Pronghorns cross roads at the easies place for them to get under a fence, which has led them to peril.

Nowadays, there are man-made 3-rail wooden fences that funnel pronghorn to overpasses. This allows them to safely cross above a road.  These overpasses span 4-lane highways and are over 100 yds long and 50 yds wide.  Studies show they work well to reduce vehicle accidents with both deer and pronghorn.

Today, the pronghorn population exceeds that of humans (580k) in WY.

Where can I see 7,500 elk? The National Elk Refuge!!

elk

Soon, a herd of around 7,500 elk will navigate in smaller groups from their northern summer range. They are headed to the Jackson Valley and the National Elk Refuge, just outside the town of Jackson, WY.

But why do they come here?

The elk migration once  passed through Jackson from north to south. As the town of Jackson developed in the early 1900’s, the migration route was  cut off.  As a result, locals began feeding the elk bales of hay (2-4% protein)  to avoid mass starvation and resulting public outcry

The Refuge was established under the auspices of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1912. It currently encompasses 25,000 acres, bordering the town.

ram on the National Elk RefugeNow elk wintering here will  be supplementally fed with condensed alfalfa pellets (30% protein).  This occurs when elk are unable to access the snow-covered forage below. Alfalfa feeding began in 1975.  Contrary to their normal fear of humans, elk  show no hesitance to “run” toward that alfalfa tractor, as if they hear the “dinner bell“ ringing.

The National Elk Refuge is also the winter home of a large Bighorn Sheep herd.  There are also wolves, bison, pronghorn antelope, coyotes, foxes, mule deer, bald eagles, hawks, ravens, magpies and multiple species of waterfowl.

The Jackson Boy Scout Troup has ONE DAY on the Refuge in the spring to gather elk antlers. They later sell them on the town square for their largest fundraising event of the year. The Troop gets 75% of auction proceeds. Last year, the average price for antlers was around $16.00/lb.  One side of an elk’s antlers can weigh 20 lbs.

To witness this magnificent place, reserve your wildlife tour.