A variety of excursions onto the National Elk Refuge this month offer the public an opportunity to see new sites, discover different perspectives, and share experiences with others. The naturalist–led trips are all free of charge, though most require a reservation that can be made by calling (307) 201–5406. Unless otherwise noted, the excursions depart from the Jackson Hole & Greater Yellowstone Visitor Center, located at 532 N. Cache Street in Jackson.
This Saturday, February 13, naturalists will offer a tour focusing on Refuge history, including the establishment of the Refuge, the significance of the Miller Ranch homestead, and the historical presence of wildlife on the Refuge. Reservations are required for the three–hour tour that runs from 1:00–4:00 pm. Participants should dress in warm layers and plan to make frequent stops to exit the vehicle and enjoy views of the landscape and wildlife. Binoculars, a spotting scope, and guide books will be available for use. The program will repeat on Monday, February 29.
On Thursday, February 18, the focus will shift to predators, with a driving tour that will emphasize predator ecology and management. Similar to the history tours, the excursion will run from 1:00–4:00 pm, with reservations required. The trip will be preceded by a informal program by the Cougar Fund, a local advocacy group dedicated to the conservation of mountain lions and other carnivores. A representative from the Cougar Fund will be available in the Visitor Center from 11:00 am – 1:00 pm to discuss the history of mountain lions on the Refuge, the current conservation status of the cats, and the Cougar Fund’s recent research in the area.
The final outing offered this month will be a full moon walk on Monday, February 22. Staff will lead the unique evening program in the Miller Butte area from 6:30 – 8:00 pm. Conversations will focus on elk management, including the Refuge’s supplemental feeding program. Parking will be limited, so carpooling is recommended. Reservations are required; instructions on where to meet will be provided during the reservation process. Participants are asked to bring a flashlight or headlamp if available and to wear warm, sturdy footwear.
Those looking for a shorter interpretive outing can join a casual Sunday stroll on February 14, 21, and 28 from 1:00–2:00 pm. The easy walks on the Visitor Center north lawn explore tracks and other signs of wildlife in the rich habitat area adjacent to the Visitor Center. The nearby wetlands support waterfowl and other birds year–round, with occasional moose and deer using the area during the winter months. Group size is not limited, and reservations are not required.
For more information on February programs, including meeting times and locations, please call the Refuge naturalist reservation line at (307) 201–5406.