Lander’s resident elk population explained; Hunting to be allowed on North Fork this fall

Lander Area Game Warden Brady Frude chatted with Hugh Lowham about local elk after Wednesday's Rotary Club meeting. Photo h/t Ernie Over

(Lander, Wyo.) – The elk that have been coming into the city limits of Lander this past winter are coming from two distinct herds, Lander Game Warden Brady Frude told the Lander Rotary Club’s weekly meeting Wednesday. “There are a couple groups totaling about 400 that came up against the city limits this past winter, with 100 of them actually entering the city limits,” Frude said. “The two herds comprise about 200 head each and come from the North Fork and the Squaw Creek areas.”

“We don’t have a firm grip on why, it’s not an odd thing and it’s been normal for both deer and elk. Since the city has expanded, the interface has changed,” he  said. “Wolves do play a  part, but they are not the major factor, the winter is the major reason, when we have major snow, they come down to where feed is available.”

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Frude said there has been some ownership changes of close to town ranches, “and we’ve seen increased hazing practices driving the elk off of hay fields into other areas, including town. Three to four years ago, the Squaw Creek herd got into some unprotected hay stacks, and they had a “hay day”, ” he said, “and they kept coming back.” Frude said those unprotected hay stacks are being fenced off.

Elk this past winter near Sinks Canyon south of Lander, Photo h/t Karl Brauneis

The North Fork herd, he said, have become resident elk. “They also found some unprotected hay stacks and the elk have learned to bounce back and forth over the North Fork River as there are different hunting seasons on the Wind River Reservation and on state lands.” While residents of the North Fork traditionally have not been concerned over the elk, “this year it is different and they said let’s do something.” So, the Game and Fish will be allowing a limited number of tags, 25, on private ground there this coming fall. He also said cattle ranchers are becoming more concerned with Brucellosis occurring in elk herds. “We’ve been fortunate in that we’ve not had to worry about that here, but elk can be a carrier,” he said.

The Lander Game Warden said some elk collared in winter feed grounds have made their way into the local herds, and he said the concern is with those out-of-area elk that might have been exposed to the disease. Frude said hunters with the new elk tags for the North Fork area will be accompanied by G&F personnel to collect samples from the harvested elk to check for the disease. “We’ve only had three positives in the Southern Wind River herd, the last being in 2002,” he noted.

“We’re hoping the hunting will be enough to suggest to the elk that this is not the place to be and move them back into the mountains,” he said.

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