The National Elk Refuge in Jackson Hole, Wyoming is important habitat for many of the West’s most iconic species. Wildlife including bison, eagles, coyotes and bighorn sheep regularly utilize this protected landscape. The 24,700 acre refuge also provides vital wintering grounds for the Jackson Elk Herd. Thousands of elk migrate here each fall seeking both shelter and forage in the refuge’s relative lowlands.
But the journey isn’t easy.
Migrating elk must navigate miles of natural and artificial barriers, including rivers, roads, and fences to reach the refuge. A barrier of specific concern is WY Highway 26/89/191, which flanks the western edge of the refuge north of Jackson. This busy stretch of roadway has become a “hot spot” for wildlife-vehicle collisions in recent years.
Migrations for some animals end here each year, literally within yards of the safety of the refuge. Elk, and occasionally other ungulates, are struck and killed by vehicles while attempting to cross this highway. The elk pictured at right is one such case.
National Elk Refuge management has installed several ramps over the years, and as a partner we work with them to make sure that ramps are functioning well, and that the spacing between them is adequate to facilitate safe migrations.
Once on the refuge, existing “exclusionary” fencing prevents elk from re-entering the roadway. While this fence plays an important role in reducing wildlife-vehicle collisions along the 6-mile stretch that parallels the highway, ungulate access along this stretch of the refuge is limited to a series of “elk ramps.” Where ramps do not exist, migrating animals occasionally run along the fence looking for a gap before bouncing back out onto the highway. This can stress the animal unnecessarily and create a wildlife-vehicle conflict.
This campaign will fund construction of additional elk ramps to increase the permeability of the western boundary of the National Elk Refuge. These ramps will make it easier for animals to access the refuge and will decrease the possibility of animals becoming stuck on Highway 89. We believe this is a situation where simple actions can make a huge difference…let’s get started!
Rocky Mountain Fence crew members build an elk ramp in 2017.
Locations of existing elk ramps on the south end of the refuge are shown by the red circles. Additional ramps exist between Fish Hatchery Hill and the Gros Ventre River. Our goal is to raise money to support the construction and rebuilding of elk ramps to be completed in 2019. Click an orange button to support the project directly!
Help us reach our goal of funding two additional elk ramps for the summer of 2019. You’re donation goes directly towards making migration safer for Jackson’s elk herd.
National Elk Refuge Deputy Manager Cris Dippel (right), Rocky Mountain Fence CEO Randy Williams, and volunteer project coordinator Valerie Conger survey a site prior to elk ramp construction in the summer of 2017.