Thursday, February 25, 2010
Elk viewing season ending early this year--Sleigh Rides End March 1
Hyrum -- If you’ve been thinking about taking a sleigh ride to see elk at Hardware Ranch, it’s now or never.
Dwindling snow has forced the Division of Wildlife Resources to close the sleigh rides at the popular wildlife management area early this year.
The sleigh rides will close at 5 p.m. on March 1. That’s about two weeks sooner than normal.
The Hardware Ranch WMA is at mile marker 22 on state Route 101 in Blacksmith Fork Canyon, about 17 miles east of Hyrum.
More than 300 elk are still on the meadow at the WMA. But Dan Christensen, the WMA’s superintendent, says south-facing slopes in the canyons that surround the WMA are quickly losing snow.
As the snow melts, more browse becomes available to the elk. And that means plenty of food will be available outside of the WMA soon.
“On warmer days, the elk leave the meadow or they drift to the far edge of the meadow,” Christensen says. “That makes it hard for us to get people as close to the elk as we usually can. We don’t want people to be disappointed when they come here.”
Christensen says the horse-drawn sleigh rides started in 1946, and they’ve been a favorite attraction at the WMA ever since. More than 30,000 visitors typically come to the WMA each winter. They’re treated to sleigh rides that take them through the middle of as many as 600 wild elk.
The elk are drawn to the WMA by a winter-feeding program. The program was started to prevent elk from raiding haystacks in Cache Valley by holding some of the elk at the top of Blacksmith Fork Canyon.