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Some wildlife areas to stay closed longer

Apr 21, 2017 The Associated Press

PINEDALE (AP) -- The Wyoming Game and Fish Department is delaying public access to some wildlife management areas around Pinedale this spring.

The agency says one of the harshest winters in western Wyoming has caused extra stress on mule deer and human activity would only add to the problem.

As a result, the department decided to delay opening the Soda Lake, Fall Creek, Halfmoon and Luke Lynch wildlife habitat management areas until May 10.

The four Game and Fish administered properties are located within a major migration corridor for the Sublette Mule Deer Herd.

The delayed opening of the Soda Lake Wildlife Habitat Management Area will also preclude anglers from accessing Soda Lake for fishing until May 10.

Earlier, officials noted that thousands of elk already have left the National Elk Refuge in Teton County earlier than usual.

The official refuge count on Wednesday fell below a 2,500 threshold that allows for the opening of the multi-use pathway paralleling Highways 26, 89 and 191 located north of Jackson.

National Elk Refuge biologist Eric Cole says during the middle of feed season, elk numbers were around 9,000. In three weeks, Cole saw the elk numbers fall from 6,200 to 3,000 to 1,600.

Hundreds of bison that come to the refuge in the winter have also left. Typically elks and bison on the land are hazed north in early May, but officials are not sure whether that operation will be necessary this year.

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2017-10-19