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Archives on the Air 316: Father of the Elk - S.N. Leek Papers

Stephen Leek was passionate about the preservation of the elk which wintered near Jackson Hole. Leek was an early homesteader and rancher in the Jackson area. He arrived in Wyoming in 1885. Leek had a burgeoning interest in photography and spent more than forty years capturing images of Wyoming wildlife.

He traveled across the U.S. sharing his photographs and entreating listeners to support him in providing hay for the elk. Without the hay, thousands of elk were dying of starvation each winter. Leek was billed as “The Father of the Elk” as he gave lectures on the Orpheum Vaudeville circuit.

Eventually he was able to persuade the Wyoming legislature to appropriate five thousand dollars towards feeding the elk. By 1912, Leek finally had the attention of Congress. The National Elk Refuge was established.

See the S.N. Leek papers at UW’s American Heritage Center to learn more about his efforts to protect the largest elk herd in the United States.