Heavy snowfall has pushed elk out of Yellowstone National Park near Gardiner in significant numbers, prompting Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks to temporarily suspend hunting in the area.
The emergency elk hunting closure applies to portions of Hunting District 313 including Crevice Mountain, Deckard Flats, Eagle Creek and Little Trail Creek effective Tuesday, Nov. 7, at noon through Sunday, Nov. 12.
The objective of the closure is to reduce the harvest of vulnerable elk when large migrations occur during the general season, according to an FWP press release.
"There were about 1,000 elk on Deckard Flats and some bull groups showing up," said Karen Loveless, FWP wildlife biologist in Livingston. "So that triggered our decision to close that area."
Authority to institute the emergency closure in the area was granted by the Fish and Wildlife Commission in 2016. The closure applies only to elk hunting.
The Gardiner check station counted 20 elk harvested over the weekend, compared to only five the prior weekend. Loveless estimated that about 10 bulls a day have been harvested so far this season, or about 150 bulls total.
"That's been a problem with getting too many bulls in the past," said John Vore, FWP game management bureau chief. "That's why we had this in our back pocket."
He said the closure isn't based on a set number of bulls or elk harvested, but that Northern Range Yellowstone elk herd has seen fewer bulls in spring herd counts which prompted FWP to try and reduce the harvest by tinkering with regulations the past two years.
That's left some locals angry with the agency, but Loveless said there are still other areas where they can elk hunt.
The legal description of the closure boundary is: Beginning at the confluence of the Yellowstone River and Little Trail Creek northwest of Gardiner, then northeasterly along Little Trail Creek up to its headwaters, then easterly to the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness boundary, then easterly along said boundary to the North Fork of Bear Creek, then southeasterly along said creek to its confluence with Bear Creek, then northerly along said creek to the confluence of Pine Creek, then easterly along said Creek to the intersection with the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness boundary, then southerly along said boundary to the boundary with Yellowstone National Park, then westerly along said boundary to the confluence of the Yellowstone River and Reese Creek west of the town of Gardiner, then westerly along the Yellowstone River to its confluence with Little Trail Creek, the point of beginning.