Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Jackson Hole, Wyoming Jan. 2011

Double H Bar National Elk Refuge Sleigh Ride

Horse-drawn sleighs transported groups right into the midst of the resting elk herds. Thick, warm throw blankets provided a welcome barrier to the bitter, cold wind sweeping across the valley. Our knowledgeable and skilled driver/guide answered our questions and explained the history of the refuge.

The elk don't react to the horses and sleighs; we were quiet, stayed seated and were able to closely observe bulls, cows and calves. Loved those antlers!

There were elk as far as you could see. The forage available beneath the snow and the body condition of the elk are closely monitored to determine how much hay to put out daily as supplemental feed. There is a fence to keep the elk off the freeway, and though they can wander the valley lengthwise for quite some distance, they tend to stay where the feeding areas are. Once the snows melt and green starts showing, the elk split up and begin the trek back up into the mountains.

The elk have migrated here from the mountains for centuries. Once their winter feeding ranges became populated by ranchers, the elk discovered stores of cattle hay made for easy meals. After several years of slaughtering the offending elk to save the cattle, concerned cattlemen and citizens pooled resources and raised funds to feed and designate land for safe wintering of the large elk herds. The herd appears fat and healthy.

Not all survive the winter. The fallen bodies are left to nature.

A mangy coyote retreating from his feast.
We thoroughly enjoyed this adventure. Being able to experience these wild creatures 'close-up' without disturbing them was awesome. If you get to Jackson Hole in the winter, you must take this tour!


Jenn said...

Oh. Wow. That's just beautiful, and what an experience! Even the snow is beautiful.

david said...

looks like a fun vacation to take for sure.

lov ya, mom f said...

Elk, man I would say lots of Elk. one Coyote, poor thing.
Would be great vacation.
Thanks for pictures

di :) said...

WOW, look at the color of that sky. beautiful!