After avoiding a fenced trap, officials with the National Elk Refuge launched a large-scale operation earlier this week in an attempt to collar elk in the Jackson Elk Herd.

“For whatever reason, they avoided the trap again,” National Elk Refuge Manager Steve Kallin told Jackson Hole News & Guide Tuesday. “It’s been out there for months, and we’ve been baiting around it. They’ve been in and using it. In fact, this weekend they were in it.”

With the failure of the fence trap, officials turned to tranquilizer guns which gave researchers the added benefit of testing factors such as body fat, and for disease and pregnancy in the elk specimens. In total, Wyoming Game and Fish and federal scientists collared 25 elk and hope to assess the differences in pregnancy rates on the Jackson Elk Herd’s summer ranges. For decades, research has suggested that the short-distance migratory portion of the herd has had better reproductive success and this newly acquired data will hopefully help researchers understand why.

Initially, researchers were banking on a large sample of animals to test, but because the fence trap failed to capture any elk, researchers will have to settle for a smaller sampling for the time being.

“We had hoped to [examine] a lot of animals and get a good feel for it,” Kallin said, “but it looks like we’ll only have a handful of animals.

“This is just part of our ongoing effort to monitor the herd and herd health,” he said. “From my observations, the herd is in good condition. Certainly we would encourage folks to go out on a sleigh ride and take a look.”

H/T: Jackson Hole News & Guide