Elk hazed from Spring Gulch area to refuge
By Mike Koshmrl, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
February 9, 2013
Motorists traveling north of Jackson on Highway 191 on Friday morning were momentarily halted by an animal drive that might have caused them to look twice.
A group of elk, with snowmobiles on their heels, were being nudged across the roadway toward the National Elk Refuge by Wyoming Game and Fish Department officials.
The wapiti herd, all bulls, had been getting into feed lines and scuffling with horses on private ranches in the Spring Gulch area, said Game and Fish biologist Doug Brimeyer.
“Ranchers had been raising complaints,” Brimeyer said. “We moved 25 bull elk out of there, all the way through the jump onto the refuge.”
Brimeyer, along with North Jackson Game Warden Bill Long, were in charge of the drive, which took place just north of East Gros Ventre Butte.
Every few years, Brimeyer said, loitering elk cause damage on private land that triggers the need to push them out of Spring Gulch.
“They either cause damage to private hay stacks or they get in on a feed line,” he said. “They can be aggressive with the domestic stock. We’ve had horses injured in the past, so we take it pretty seriously.”
A rancher who grazes horses and cattle in the area said it’s a serious annual issue.
“They’re all over the gulch,” rancher Jim Lucas said. “Our biggest problem is they’re all bulls and they fight for feed.”
In years past, Lucas said, he has had horses fatally injured by the elk.
Besides lost feed and potential injuries to horses and cattle, another worry that prompts wildlife managers to keep elk off private land is the spread of brucellosis.
“February is the hottest time of the year for elk abortion — brucellosis kicking in,” Lucas said.
There were no collared elk in the herd, Brimeyer said, so it’s impossible to say if the group had been foraging on the National Elk Refuge and strayed from there.
Refuge managers plan carefully when to start supplemental feeding in part to keep animals from leaving in search of forage. This year, feeding started Jan. 31, within a week of the average feed start day.