Elk Tallied in Jackson Elk Herd and National Elk Refuge
The annual winter count and classification of the Jackson Elk Herd -- Wyoming’s largest elk herd -- was recently conducted. This year there were 11,800 elk counted compared to last year’s total of 10,800.
"These numbers represent the elk actually counted on or near the feedgrounds and we estimate there are another 1,000 or so animals that don’t get counted," said Doug Brimeyer, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s Jackson wildlife biologist. "We didn’t see as many elk wintering out away from feed grounds this year, which was expected with the heavier snowfall we’ve received. We estimate the actual population of the Jackson herd is probably around 13,000 elk, similar to last year"
With most elk attending feedgrounds, the Game and Fish can count a high proportion of the animals in the herd unit. This estimate is still above the target of 11,000 elk for the herd.
The number of calves per 100 cows is one piece of information managers collect to measure of the health of big game herds. Wildlife managers recorded 22 calves per 100 cows in the Jackson herd this year, which is down some from the 26 per 100 cows recorded last year. "The lower calf ratio is something we are concerned about, and will be taken into account when formulating our season recommendations for this fall," said Brimeyer.
The herd’s calf to cow ratio has fluctuated from a low of 19 in 1995 and 2002, to a high of 34 in 1988. The 20-year average calf ratio for the Jackson herd is 26 calves per 100 cows.
"Given the lower calf ratio this year, we feel the herd is still in a downward trend," said Brimeyer. "As this population approaches the 11,000 objective we will be proposing hunting seasons that reduce harvest on elk from segments of the population that are not doing as well, such as the Teton Wilderness elk."
The annual count of elk on the National Elk Refuge was conducted as well with a total count of 6,730 elk. This is the seventh consecutive year wildlife managers have met the refuge population objective, agreed upon by the Game and Fish and National Elk Refuge, which is to have no more than 7,500 elk on feed. Elk that winter on and adjacent to the National Elk Refuge generally account for about 50-60 percent of the entire Jackson elk herd.