Flat Creek in the Elk Refuge is now open for fishing. Photo: Nick Sulzer // Buckrail

JACKSON, Wyo. — In conjunction with Bridger-Teton National Forest winter wildlife closures, a portion of the National Elk Refuge Road will be closed to public travel from Dec. 1 through April 30 to protect wintering wildlife.

The closure, which begins approximately 3½ miles northeast of the Refuge’s entrance on East Broadway Avenue in Jackson, includes both Curtis Canyon and Flat Creek roads.

Elk and bison hunters with National Elk Refuge permits will be allowed to drive through the closure to access hunt parking lots during the days their permits are valid. Hunters must drive directly to the designated lots to park prior to hunting. No public travel beyond the closure will be allowed after the hunting seasons conclude.

The Refuge Road is a popular destination in the winter as elk, bighorn sheep, and other animals can frequently be seen close to the roadway, travelers are reminded that stopping on the refuge road is not permitted. Drivers should use designated pullouts for extended wildlife viewing and photography.

Refuge Road users should also be aware of bighorn sheep approaching vehicles to lick the salts and minerals. This activity is detrimental to bighorn sheep because the transmission of wildlife diseases such as pneumonia is a chronic condition in this herd. There may also be harmful chemicals on the surface of a vehicle that could be unsafe to consume. If sheep approach, drive slowly ahead and move to a pullout further away from the herd.

All visitors and residents using the open portion of the Refuge Road must be aware that travel is confined to the roadway only. All off-road travel is prohibited, including walking, skiing, or other recreational activities. Dogs are also limited to the roadway and must be leashed at all times.

Wintering elk can be seen from Highway 26, 89, 191 north of Jackson during most of the winter season. Wildlife watchers should use the turnouts on the east side of the highway. It is a violation of the seasonal North 89 pathway closure to approach the refuge fence. Repeated disturbance throughout the winter from people walking into closed areas, including the North 89 pathway, can impact an animal’s health during a time of year when energy conservation is key to their survival.

The presence of humans on foot along the Refuge fence can cause the herd to bolt from the area, stressing elk and causing them to use precious resources needed to survive the harsh winter season.

More information on areas where winter wildlife viewing is available on the National Elk Refuge’s website.

Buckrail @ Lindsay

Lindsay Vallen is a Community News Reporter covering a little bit of everything; with an interest in politics, wildlife, and amplifying community voices. Originally from the east coast, Lindsay has called Wilson, Wyoming home since 2017. In her free time, she enjoys snowboarding, hiking, cooking, and completing the Jackson Hole Daily crosswords.