Sleigh rides at Hardware Wildlife Management Area canceled due to drought

Photo: Utah DWR

HYRUM, Utah, Nov. 18, 2021 (Gephardt Daily) — Sleigh rides at the Hardware Wildlife Management Area near Hyrum have been canceled this winter due to drought this past spring and summer that led to some of the lowest hay production ever.

Brucellosis, a disease that causes cow elk to abort their young, has been found in several states, including Wyoming and Idaho, said a news release from the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. DWR biologists need some of the limited hay to lure elk into a trapping facility at the WMA this winter, so work can be done to monitor for brucellosis. Managers also need to keep a surplus of hay available in case the winter gets severe and they need to feed elk to try to keep some of the animals out of nearby ranchers’ hay supplies.

“There isn’t enough hay this year to do both of those things while also keeping enough hay on the ground to lure elk for horse-drawn sleigh rides through the elk herd,” the news release said. “For those reasons, the DWR will not offer sleigh rides through the elk herd this winter.”

The massive trapping and disease testing program happening at the WMA this winter likely won’t happen to the same extent next winter.

“Not needing to trap as many elk next winter should free up a bunch of hay that we can use next year to bring elk onto the meadow where the sleigh rides are held,” Hardware WMA Manager Brad Hunt said. “We hope to be able to offer sleigh rides again in the winter of 2022-23. If we get enough snow and rain over the next few months, hay production should be good, and we should be able to offer sleigh rides again in the future.”

A total of 280 tons of hay are needed to feed elk and horses on the WMA for 10 weeks. This year only 50 tons of hay were produced for use this winter. The DWR was able to buy some additional hay before prices increased and hay became hard to find, but not enough to allow for a 10-week sleigh ride season.

“Rather than offer sleigh rides for a few weeks — and then have to end them abruptly — we’ve decided to not offer sleigh rides this year,” Hunt said.

DWR biologists want to place tracking collars on 50 calf elk — 25 males and 25 females — this winter. Tracking the collared animals, plus additional elk that have been collared in past years, will help biologists know if elk from Hardware are coming into contact with elk from brucellosis-positive areas. They also need to trap at least 40 additional cow elk to do health checks and verify if there are any cases of brucellosis currently in Utah.

Visitors should still be able to see elk at the WMA this winter, and the newly named Hardware Wildlife Education Center will have displays and activities .

Starting Dec. 10, the education center at the WMA will be open from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Feb. 13 is the last day to visit the education center for the winter season.

Special activities for children will be offered at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. every day the center is open.

An interactive display will allow visitors to touch the fur of various animals in Utah as you learn more about them.

Two new displays — one that will teach you more about the distances wildlife in Utah migrate, and one on loan from the Natural History Museum of Utah titled “Wildlife All Around Us” — will be on display throughout the winter season.

For more information about the winter season at the Hardware WMA, which is 16 miles east of Hyrum, visit the DWR website. You can also call the ranch at 435-753-6206 or email Hunt at [email protected]

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