Grand Teton Association raises funds for the National Elk Refuge with merchandise sales at the Jackson Hole and Greater Yellowstone Visitor Center. This year the Refuge will use funds to repair and replace GPS collars on 14 elk for a cost of $25,000. Elk location data collected from the collars will help wildlife managers map elk movement and habitat use, design hunting seasons to meet objectives, monitor the effects of wolves on elk density, and evaluate the effects of elk density on potential disease transmission.
During a collaring operation, biologists travel in a small snowcat retrofitted with a cab for use during management operations. The snowcat follows a feed truck during supplemental feeding, allowing the second vehicle to get close to the herd. Here, the two vehicles head out onto the National Elk Refuge to a group of elk located in the refuge's Poverty Flats management area.
Refuge biologist Eric Cole sights in an elk selected to receive a GPS collar. The gun delivers a dart containing a drug that immobilizes the animal within two to four minutes. After two years, the collars automatically release from the animal in order for staff to conduct routine maintenance on the device. The collars are collected and can be refurbished and reused, eliminating the need to purchase new equipment and thus reducing costs. (all photos by Lori iverson)