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National Elk Refuge, Jackson

Categories: Wildlife Areas, Nature & Parks
Inspirock Rating:
4.4/5 based on 1,000+ reviews on the web
The National Elk Refuge is located in the U.S. state of Wyoming and was created in 1912 to protect habitat and provide sanctuary for one of the largest elk (also known as the wapiti) herd on Earth. The refuge borders the town of Jackson, Wyoming on the northeast while Bridger-Teton National Forest is to the east and Grand Teton National Park borders the refuge to the north. It is home to an average of 7,500 elk each winter. The refuge is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, an agency of the U.S. Department of the Interior.Elk migrate from as far away as southern Yellowstone National Park and historically migrated south of the present location of the refuge into southwestern Wyoming during the fall, wintering on grassy plains that were usually snowfree most of the winter. During the spring, the herd would follow the retreating snows back into the Yellowstone National Park region. The original size of the elk herd has been estimated to have been in excess of 25,000. The expansion of the town of Jackson blocked off the migration route by the end of the 19th century and the elk herd was severely reduced in size due to the hostile climate and lack of food supply. A movement to protect and enlarge the remaining herd was commenced in the early 1900s, resulting in the creation of the refuge. The elk herd is kept alive during the hard winters of Jackson Hole through feeding and culling of the herd, a lottery based hunting permit program, which is highly regulated. The elk have antlers which are shed each year and the Boy Scouts of America have been collecting the antlers under permit since the 1950s and selling them at auction under agreement that 75% of the proceeds are returned to the refuge to feed, research and manage the herd to assure its survival. Ten to eleven thousand pounds (4,500 to 5,000 kg) of antlers are auctioned each year. The increase in value has resulted in a commensurate rise in antler theft The refuge also provides horse drawn sleigh rides to the public during the winter months so that visitors have the opportunity to see portions of the herd up close. The furthest consistent migration of elk to the refuge is currently from the southern portion of Yellowstone National Park, making it the second longest ungulate migration in the lower 48 states. (The migration of pronghorn between the Green River basin and Jackson Hole in Wyoming is longer).
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  • This is such a great thing that is being done for the wildlife that are pushed down from the snow. I only wish we could come back in November/December to actually see the thousands of Elle migrate to ...  read more »
  • Disappointing, we have seen no momentum despite our hotel located just in front of the shelter. Finally, it turns out that the summer is not the right time to observe. Despite everything the hotel does pay its price high because in the front of the shelter overnight.
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  • Miles and miles of high fence along the main highway to/from Jackson. The Snake River also meanders through, and there are marshlands and wetlands adjacent. Hundreds of ducks feeding and loitering. 
  • So much fun and very educational. We paid $20 to do the cart ride thru the refuge and got pretty close to the elks. The ride was 1 hour long and our guide was very nice and informative. Told us also about the migration patterns and the history of the land. It was a bumpy ride but fun and interesting.
  • Used to run here every day and loved seeing the elk, wolves and Big Horn Sheep. In the winter time the horse drawn sleigh rides are pretty fun to.
  • Absolutely beautiful country. It was very green in late June, no elk, but a great drive. It does turn to gravel and there can be locals that drive fast on the road. I had to pull over several times to let others go by or was passed before I could pull over. Great spot for pictures and a drive.
  • Be sure that you check road conditions before you come here. They keep most of the animals in the refuge till April and let them go free to herd. There is sleigh rides during winter. All in all a good place to bike or a quick drive through while you are in Jackson.
  • The sleigh rides are awesome way to see elk up close. A fun little trip, and great photo opportunities.