Pathway use during the closure can cause stress on wintering wildlife. Photo: Nick Sulzer // Buckrail

JACKSON, Wyo. — The seasonal closure of the North Highway 89 multi-use pathway between the Town of Jackson and Grand Teton National Park will go into effect Tuesday, Nov. 1.

The five-mile segment of the pathway stretching between Flat Creek and the Gros Ventre River is subject to an annual closure from Nov. 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 U.S. 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.

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.

Since the pathway opened, biologists have collected GPS elk collar data and conducted weekly elk counts on the area south of the Gros Ventre Hills during both the spring and fall migration periods. Using both GPS information and other tools such as motion-detecting trail cameras, wildlife managers have determined that peak spring elk movements occur during the second and third weeks of April. In the fall, the main segment of the Jackson Elk Herd that crosses the pathway comes from Spring Gulch and the southern area of Grand Teton National Park.

The seasonal closure coincides with other closures, including Teton Park Road and Moose-Wilson Road.