Hardware Ranch winter elk sanctuary routinely closes for the season about mid-March. This season the elk have already left for food at higher elevations, since there is little or no snow pack higher up, so the ranch has been closed. Monday was the final day. “Yes, it was, and we’re sorry about that,” said Hardware Ranch Superintendent Dan Christensen. “But we would much rather end the season a couple of weeks early than have people make the long drive up and find out there just aren’t any elk, so now there are not the normal opportunities to see wildlife.” Christensen said this is the second time in his seven years Hardware Ranch has been forced to close early. A typical winter at the ranch draws about 30,000 visitors. “We’re just gathering final numbers now,” said Christensen, “and I suppose with the estimates we’ve seen we may have had 20,000 visitors this year. Typically, going until mid-March, we would have seen another 3,000-to-4,000 those last two weeks. The numbers have been a little bit off but we have had some Saturdays and holidays where we have seen thousands of people.” He said usually the herd peaks at between 500-600 head by early-February each year. “Yesterday (Monday) we did a count and we had 350 head. They’re down near the hay but they’re not eating our hay because there is so much more good food up on the meadow.” Christensen said it was a decision about whether to take a chance on staying open and disappointing a lot of people who were going to come a long distance to see elk up close and personal, but not be able to deliver it. Hardware Ranch, about 17 miles east of Hyrum in Blacksmith Fork Canyon, is a state Wildlife Management Area. “It was created solely to keep the elk from coming to Cache Valley and eating the haystacks,” said Christensen. He said elk populations statewide are in good shape. “They’re such an adaptable species,” said Christensen. “I think we’re approaching the 68,000 mark which is huge number of elk in Utah. It’s a healthy population.”
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