In the fall, the pathway closure is in place to limit potential conflicts between pathway users and migrating elk. The studies will consist of data collection to determine when elk are moving through the pathway corridor area. Motion activated wildlife cameras are installed at each of the seven elk jumps between the Flat Creek Bridge and the Gros Ventre Bridge. The cameras record the date, time of day, types of animals, and approximate number of animals utilizing the elk jumps (or active in the general area). This will allow County Pathway and Elk Refuge officials to evaluate if the closure dates are appropriate or if the management strategy can be modified.
In the spring, the pathway closure is intended to prevent disturbance to foraging or wintering elk, and disturbance to nesting swans and other birds. The studies will consist of observations of elk locations, observations of nesting trumpeter swans, and observations of wildlife response to pathway use.
From the Biota Highway 89 Pathway Monitoring Study Proposal:
- Task 1 - Evaluate the response of nesting trumpeter swans to pathway use through behavioral observations; determine if swans respond to pathway users; determine if pathway users are aware of nesting swans proximate to the pathway and whether or not users stop to observe swans; determine if nesting swans are being adversely affected by pathway use.
- Task 2 - Evaluate potential adverse impacts of pathway use to elk; determine how and when migrating elk enter the Refuge from the east side of Highway 89 using jumps, and if pathway use may influence and impact elk access; determine if pathway use influences the spatial distribution and use of the refuge by elk in areas proximate to the pathway.
- Task 3 - Develop a strategy to monitor violations of pathway use regulations such as seasonal closures and dog prohibition.