The National Elk Refuge celebrates its 100th anniversary this year, marking a historic achievement for the conservation of wildlife. Officials with the state of Wyoming and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) celebrated over the weekend of August 10, which coincided with the historic date when an Act of Congress set aside lands “for the establishment of a winter game (elk) reserve in the State of Wyoming, lying south of the Yellowstone Park,” according to a USFWS press release.
USFWS officials administer the 25,000 acres devoted to elk winter range south of Yellowstone, near Jackson, Wyoming. In the centennial year, the USFWS prepares for a gradual phase out of supplemental feeding based on a court order and subsequently, a smaller elk herd. Supplemental feeding is a necessary initiative during the harsh winter months when most elk die off, but efforts to minimize feeding have been in place internally long before the court order was issued.
The refuge is looking to support a wintering elk herd of about 5,000. For comparison, the refuge has supported 10,000 elk in its peak population levels in the winters of 1918, 1941, 1956, 1996 and 1997.
To find out more about the origins of the refuge, and the man who played an integral role in lobbying for elk protection, Stephen Leek, view the video below.