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JACKSON – The Wyoming Game and Fish Department reminds those seeking to hunt bison in Wyoming this fall that the application period ends Feb 28, 2011. The Jackson Region is the only region offering a hunt at this time. The process for acquiring a license is largely the same as other big game species in Wyoming, but there are some differences.

Like most hunts with a limited number of licenses available, the department conducts a computerized random draw to determine which applicants will get to hunt. However, rather than receiving a license directly in the mail, successful applicants are mailed a letter notifying them that they can purchase a license at the Jackson Regional Office if they choose. The cost of a license is $402 for residents and $2,502 for nonresidents. There is a nonrefundable application fee of $11 for residents and $20 for nonresidents.

Hunter success has varied in recent years with weather playing a significant role, much like other big game hunting. The bulk of the Jackson bison herd spends summers in Grand Teton National Park, where bison hunting is prohibited, and winters at the National Elk Refuge where hunting is allowed in the fall. If animals do not migrate during the hunting season they are largely unavailable to hunters, making it difficult for wildlife managers to achieve the desired harvest.

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s population objective for the Jackson Bison herd is 500 animals. The bison population has remained relatively stable since 2009. The herd was recently surveyed and a total of 910 animals were counted. The actual population would be slightly higher when considering the number of animals managers did not see during the survey. The number of bison in the herd remains a concern because bison share the same winter range with several thousand elk from the Jackson Elk Herd, and they compete for available forage. A bison consumes about three times what an elk eats, so with the larger number of bison, natural forage gets depleted a lot quicker.

“We were encouraged this year by the increased cow harvest on the National Elk Refuge,” says Doug Brimeyer, Game and Fish wildlife biologist in Jackson. “When we get some early snows like this past season, hunters have better success and we can make progress in moving the herd numbers closer to the population objective. In 2009, we did not get much early season snow and the bison were largely unavailable to hunters.”

In 2010, 80 licenses were offered for bulls and 200 for cows. A total of 71 bull hunters chose to buy a license with 67 of those being successful. There were 124 cow hunters who bought a license with 111 of those being successful. Over the past four years, since hunting has been allowed on the National Elk Refuge, hunters have had greater success in helping wildlife managers reach their harvest goals. The total harvest has ranged from 139 in 2009 to 266 in 2007.

“Just like any big game population, we rely heavily on hunters to help us manage the herd, but the weather has a lot to do with hunter success,” says Brimeyer. “We will continue to work with the National Elk Refuge to offer a hunt that can bring numbers toward the population objective, but clearly it’s something that is going to take some time.”
(Contact: Mark Gocke (307) 733-2321)