JACKSON HOLE, WYO – The seasonal closure of the North Highway 89 Pathway between the Town of Jackson and Grand Teton National Park will go into effect on Wednesday, November 1. The five-mile segment of the pathway stretching between Flat Creek and the Gros Ventre River is subject to an annual closure from November 1 to April 30 in order to reduce impacts to migrating elk and other wildlife that winter on the National Elk Refuge.
The seasonal closure is a condition of the agreement between Teton County and the National Elk Refuge to maintain the pathway and offer recreational activities on US Fish and Wildlife Service property. The seasonal closure reduces the likelihood of conflicts between elk and pathway users and ensures the pathway is compatible with the agency’s “wildlife first” mission.
“The North Highway 89 segment of the pathway lies within a key migration route,” explained Brian Schilling, Pathways coordinator. “Pathway users may spook elk trying to find their way to the Refuge during the active fall migration period. It increases the risk they’ll respond by running up onto the highway and into harm’s way, creating a hazard to both wildlife and motorists.”
County maintenance crews will close the gates installed along the length of the pathway to notify cyclists and pedestrians the pathway is closed during elk migration and winter seasons.
Refuge officials remind the public that crossing over the pathway to approach the Refuge fence for photographs or wildlife viewing is still a breach of the pathway closure. The presence of humans at or near the fence often causes nearby elk to bolt and leave the area. The constant disturbance throughout the winter has a cumulative effect, adding to an animal’s weakened condition brought about by the rigors of the harsh season.
Refuge manager Brian Glaspell stated, “The county’s pathway provides an exciting opportunity for the public to enjoy the beauty of the Refuge and observe wildlife. However, it’s critical to limit disturbance during this very sensitive time of year.”