Utah’s wildlife, up close and personal

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Snowy conditions on cold winter day allow for a perfect opportunity to take a horse-drawn carriage through a herd of elk in a winter wonderland.

During the early 1900s, the wildlife department started bringing elk into the state and it started causing agricultural problems, said Phil Douglas, division of wildlife resources conservation outreach manager of northern Utah.

The wildlife department initially bought Hardware Ranch as a place to raise hay and feed the elk so they wouldn’t wander into the valley and destroy crops. These efforts began causing the elk to stay in the canyon for the winter and not migrate south.

According to the Hardware Ranch website, over 300 tons of hay is needed to feed all the elk that come through the ranch each winter. (Photo courtesy Hardware Ranch)

 

Feeding the elk in the canyon allowed the department to keep an eye on the wildlife and begin offering tours to the public. Since it began in the 1940s, families drive from all over Utah to be pulled in a horse-drawn sleigh and see wildlife up close.

Brad Hunt, supervisor of Hardware Ranch, explained the duty the division of wildlife resources has to the ecosystem in the area. The department does a lot to promote the well-being of the habitat and the ecosystem in general. While that is the general goal of Hardware Ranch, another great effect is the joy it brings to families in the winter months.

“The main draw is the chance to see elk up close,” Hunt said. “It’s typically a little bit warmer than the valleys.” The inversion that traps the cold air in the valleys doesn’t usually affect the blue, sunny skies that await in this canyon close to Logan.

Amy Canning, communications specialist for the division of wildlife resources, recently took the trip up to Hardware Ranch with her family. “I enjoyed seeing the elk, but I was amazed at how many other species we saw,” she said. “On the ride to the ranch, we saw deer, porcupine and wild turkeys. And then, while we were out on the sleigh, we saw elk, bald eagles and a coyote.”

Canning believes the tour is a wonderful way to enjoy a first-hand look at Utah’s incredible wildlife.

Because the tour only lasts in the winter months, it’s important to get up there as soon as possible. The tours usually run from December to the end of February.

When the tours aren’t running, however, the visitor’s center that is currently being upgraded offers educational and fun experiences for families. The conservation efforts of the ranch continue throughout the year. For more information on the ranch and additional programs as well as the elk tour schedule, visit wildlife.utah.gov/hardwareranch/.

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