We’re in our annual transition at the ranch from winter to summer as we put away the cold-weather gear and ramp up for the warmer activities our guests love. But we’re not the only ones making changes based on the season.
Each spring marks the start of the summer migration for elk, mule deer, pronghorn, bison and other members of the ungulate species in Wyoming. These creatures are leaving their winter feeding grounds for the more lush habitat found at higher elevations.
The journey can be up to 150 miles, traversing public and private lands across steep mountain passes.
The Wyoming Migration Initiative overseen by the University of Wyoming has undertaken multiple research projects to learn more about migration patterns to enhance conservation of travel corridors.
Red Desert Herd
Wildlife biologist Hall Sawyer discovered the longest recorded mule deer migration when his research tracked a herd from the Red Desert to the high mountain slopes of the Hoback Basin, which is about two hours southeast of the ranch.
This 150-mile trek requires the deer to cross several highways, swim across lake and river crossings and get over, under or around more than 100 fences.
Elk of Yellowstone
The elk you see during a summer visit to Yellowstone National Park are not year-round residents. Instead, they are members of six to eight populations that come to the park each summer from winter locales in Wyoming, Idaho and Montana.
They are part of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and their abundance help sustain a varied group of carnivores, scavengers and pump tens of millions of dollars into gateway communities.
Years of research by the Wyoming Migration Initiative has amassed reams of data. But that information didn’t do much to tell a complete story of the travels.
That changed when the University of Wyoming and cartographers from the University of Oregon collaborated to use that data to recreate rich tales of the miles traveled.
“Wildlife Migrations: Atlas of Wyoming’s Ungulates” is a collection of maps, charts photos and other visual data to tell the story of the seasonal movements of mule and whitetail deer, pronghorn, elk, bison moose, bighorn sheep and mountain goats.
Know the Story
Whether your fly-fishing, horseback riding, hiking or just hanging out at the ranch, there’s a good chance you’re going to see ungulates in the wild. You’ll have a better understanding of what it took for these animals to reach their summer destination and how they survive. It’s another reason why a visit to the ranch is special.