Take a sleigh ride through wild elk at the Hardware WMA, beginning Dec. 1
Hyrum — Another season of bundling up and riding on a sleigh through the middle of hundreds of wild elk is almost here! The winter sleigh rides begin at the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources Hardware Wildlife Management Area on Dec. 1.
Haviland's Old West Adventures will offer horse-drawn sleigh rides through the elk herd on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from Dec. 1 through Feb. 11. Rides start at 10 a.m. and end at 4:30 p.m. each day. Each ride lasts about 40 minutes.
The fee to go on a ride is $10 for those 9 years of age or older and $4 for those 4 to 8 years old. Those 3 years of age or younger ride for free. Tickets are only sold at the Hardware Wildlife Education Center, and you must buy them in-person on the day of your ride.
In addition to rides on the weekends, Haviland's Old West Adventures is offering a new opportunity this year. Reservations for groups of 25 people or more can be made for sleigh rides Monday through Thursday. You can call Haviland's at 435-744-3229 to reserve a sleigh ride for your group on one of those weekdays.
Before or after your sleigh ride, you can buy food from a food trailer near the ride line. Santa Claus will also be there to greet you and your kids every weekend through Christmas Eve.
"If your kids are wanting to see Santa's reindeer this holiday season, you can provide the next best thing by visiting the Hardware WMA and seeing hundreds of their cousins," DWR Hardware Wildlife Education Center Director Marni Lee said. "Elk and reindeer are both members of the Cervidae family."
Activities and displays
In addition to riding through the middle of hundreds of elk, you can spend time warming up and learning more about elk in the Hardware Wildlife Education Center. A new "All About Elk" exhibit will be available to see in the center's habitat room. Fun activities for families will be held in the center at 11 a.m., noon, 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Each activity runs about 30 minutes.
"Making Christmas ornaments using sagebrush, bitterbrush and other plants found at the WMA is a fun and popular activity," Lee said. "We'll be making the ornaments during December."
There's no cost to visit the center and participate in the activities.
The elk you'll see at Hardware this winter have been known to migrate long distances. Elk at the Hardware WMA that have received GPS collars have traveled as far as Montpelier, Idaho and Cokeville, Wyoming.
However, the farther north the elk migrate, the greater the chance they'll contract brucellosis and bring it back to Utah. While the disease has not yet been detected in elk in Utah, brucellosis is affecting elk and bison in the Greater Yellowstone Area of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho.
Brucellosis in cattle, elk and bison is caused by the bacterium Brucella abortus. The disease causes abortions and low fertility rates in animals that contract it. Animals contract the disease when they come in contact with an aborted, infected fetus or contaminated birth fluids. Congregating a large number of animals in one area during the high-risk period increases the risk that the elk will contract the disease.
In elk, the risk for abortions is highest from February through June.
"Ending the elk viewing and feeding season in early February should cause the elk to disperse at exactly the time when cow elk that might have the disease would start aborting their fetuses," DWR Regional Wildlife Manager Jim Christensen said. "Getting the elk away from each other should greatly reduce the chance that the elk wintering at the Hardware WMA contract the disease."
You can reach the Hardware WMA by traveling 16 miles east of Hyrum on state Route 101. You'll drive through scenic Blacksmith Fork Canyon on your way to the WMA.