By Tom Ninnemann, Cowboy State Daily
The National Elk Refuge will end its supplemental feed program for elk on Monday, about four days earlier than average and about two weeks earlier than closure dates in years with similar snowpack depths.
Refuge Biologist Eric Cole explained the early closure is part of the refuge’s “Step-Down Plan” adopted in 2019. The plan is aimed at modifying elk distribution so fewer elk winter on the National Elk Refuge and reducing wildlife disease transmission.
A major part of the plan is reducing the feed season length on the refuge.
“Because we know the relationship between daily snowpack depth on the south end of the National Elk Refuge and when we ended feeding in the past, we can use that relationship to estimate a feeding end date that is two weeks early,” Cole said.
Cole explained that based on current snow conditions at Refuge Headquarters, feeding would have typically continued until April 12.
In recent days there have been approximately 8,500 elk and 300 bison on feed at The Refuge.