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Warm and dry conditions stump hunters

A hunter in orange walks across a snowy landscape at the National Elk Refuge in Wyoming.
Lori Iverson
A hunter in orange walks across a snowy landscape at the National Elk Refuge in Wyoming.

News brief

Snow and cold temperatures are the kind of conditions hunters hope for since it drives big game from high elevations down to areas where they're more concentrated and easier to track. But most of the region has seen very little of those ideal conditions this fall and winter.

"Boy, this really stumped hunters on where they could go, where to look. [They] couldn't find elk. They really struggled," said Martin Hicks, with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. Like most wildlife agencies in the Mountain West, his department won’t have complete harvest data until sometime early in the new year. But if this kind of weather is the new normal, Hicks said hunters will need to adapt.

"They're gonna have to put in more hard work and be in higher elevations," he said. "And it's going to be a tougher hunt for them."

The conditions are also bad news for wildlife. Hicks said without proper moisture levels this winter, animals may come into the spring in poor condition due to a lack of hearty vegetation.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Maggie Mullen is Wyoming Public Radio's regional reporter with the Mountain West News Bureau. Her work has aired on NPR, Marketplace, Science Friday, and Here and Now. She was awarded a 2019 regional Edward R. Murrow Award for her story on the Black 14.
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