National Elk Refuge is located in the U.S. state of Wyoming and was
created in 1912 to protect habitat and provide sanctuary for the
largest elk (also known as the wapiti) herd on Earth.
borders the town of Jackson, Wyoming on the northeast while Bridger-Teton
National Forest is to the east and Grand Teton
National Park borders the refuge to the north.
It is home
to an average of 7,500 elk each winter. The refuge is managed by
the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, an
agency of the U.S. Department of the Interior.
migrate from as far away as southern Yellowstone National Park and
historically migrated south of the present location of the refuge
into southwestern Wyoming during the
fall, wintering on grassy plains that were usually snowfree most of
the winter. During the spring, the herd would follow the
retreating snows back into the Yellowstone National Park region.
The original size of the elk herd
has been estimated to have been in excess of 25,000. The expansion
of the town of Jackson blocked off the migration route by the end
of the 19th century and the elk herd was severely reduced in size
due to the hostile climate and lack of food supply.
Elk during winter on the refuge
movement to protect and enlarge the remaining herd was commenced in
the early 1900s, resulting in the creation of the refuge.
herd is kept alive during the hard winters of Jackson Hole through feeding and culling of the herd, a
lottery based hunting permit program, which
is highly regulated.
The elk have antlers
which are shed each year and the Boy Scouts of America
collecting the antlers under permit since the 1950s and selling
them at auction under agreement that 80% of the proceeds are
returned to the refuge to feed, research and manage the herd to
assure its survival. Ten to eleven thousand pounds (4,500 to 5,000
kg) of antlers are auctioned each year. The increase in value has
resulted in a commensurate rise in antler theft 
Wetlands on the refuge
The refuge also provides horse drawn sleigh
rides to the public during the winter months so that visitors have
the opportunity to see portions of the herd up close. The furthest
consistent migration of elk to the refuge is currently from the
southern portion of Yellowstone National Park , making it the
second longest ungulate migration in the lower 48 states. (The
migration of pronghorn between the Green River basin and Jackson
Hole in Wyoming is longer).
The refuge is nearly 25,000 acres (101 km²) of meadows and marshes
along the valley floor, sagebrush
outcroppings along the mountain foothills. The largest single herd
under federal management, comprising
1,000 plus individuals, also winter on the refuge. Bighorn sheep
can be found here, along with
and even a few Trumpeter
along Flat Creek, which flows out of the refuge south
into the town of Jackson. Rare sightings of Wolves
occurred and a total of 47 mammal species and 147 bird species have
been documented on the refuge.