Message board in Refuge for motorists getting licked

JACKSON HOLE, WYO – National Elk Refuge managers have borrowed an electronic messaging board from the Teton County Sheriff’s Office in an effort to spread the word and not disease.

The sign on the Refuge Road is programmed with a short message informing travelers to avoid allowing bighorn sheep the opportunity to dine on their rides.

It has become a growing concern on the wildlife refuge—bighorn sheep approaching vehicles and licking the sides of cars and trucks to ingest salt and minerals found on the surface.

The number of characters the electronic sign can display limits extensive messaging, but the quick directive seems clear:

Bighorn sheep licking salt off a vehicle on Refuge Road. (USFWS)


Intuitively, many motorists stop and give the animals their space, waiting for the wildlife to leave the road before continuing to drive. In the case of bighorns, though, and their assertive quest for salt, the best practice is to remove any kind of reward and discourage the animals from congregating near the road.

“It’s never good to have animals learn to gather near a road,” said Refuge biologist Eric Cole. “It only adds to the likelihood of vehicle versus wildlife collisions.”

A number of pullouts are scattered along the key stretch of Refuge Road where sheep can frequently be seen, giving wildlife watchers and photographers a chance to park further from the herd, removing the salt attractant and reducing the risk of the animals ingesting any harmful chemicals.

In the meantime, word of mouth, local news efforts, social media posts, and the electronic message board seem to be making a difference.

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