Jackson – The Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s wildlife managers in Jackson are initiating an early closure of the wild bison hunting season in Jackson to allow winter elk feeding operations to begin on the National Elk Refuge. The wild bison season, originally scheduled to run through January 10, 2017 will now conclude on Friday, January 6 half an hour after sunset. The early closure to the season is being implemented due to some elk leaving the Refuge and commingling with cattle.
“This is a proactive effort due to concerns about the potential for elk damage on private lands and disease transmission to livestock on lands adjacent to the Refuge,” said Brad Hovinga, Jackson Region wildlife supervisor. “We recognize that this will impact some hunters who have not yet harvested an animal, and we apologize for the inconvenience to them. Some have traveled a great distance and make an important contribution to the economy. Game and Fish does have a process to refund license fees and unsuccessful wild bison hunters may qualify for a refund.”
Cold temperatures coupled with crusted snow conditions have caused some elk to leave the National Elk Refuge in search of food on nearby private lands. Local wildlife managers from the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and National Elk Refuge have made a joint decision to initiate feeding as soon as possible to prevent further elk from leaving the refuge.
The Game and Fish Commission’s regulation related to closing the bison hunting season requires a 48-hour notification, so the soonest the season can close is Friday evening. The early closure of the bison season will not prevent managers from reaching the desired harvest goals for the population. The Jackson bison population was estimated at approximately 800 animals prior to the hunting season and hunters have harvested approximately 260 animals so far this season. That number is consistent with wildlife managers’ goals of bringing the population towards the established population objective of 500.