The National Elk Refuge
In the high country, deep November
snows cause elk to migrate to their winter
range on the National Elk Refuge, In
strings of 200 or more, thousands of elk
arrive, some after traveling more than 65
miles from southern Yellowstone National
Park and surrounding national forests.
Settlement and development eliminated
nearly three-fourths of the elk's natural
winter range. The 23,000-acre National Elk
Refuge was established in 1912 to protect
the remaining winter habitat. Throughout
the year, several different national and
state agencies manage the herd and
The elk (properly called watiti) leave the
Refuge in April when winter snows began to
melt. Calves are born in late May and June
as the elk migrate to their summer ranges.
The winter herd on the National Elk Refuge
exceeds 7,500 animals. About one-half of these
elk summer in Grand Teton National Park. The
elk are not confined; the Refuge fence protects
them from the road.