Cache Valley residents interact with wildlife
Experiences at Hardware Ranch teach and touch visitors
Published: Wednesday, February 5, 2014
Updated: Wednesday, February 5, 2014 23:02
Staying occupied in Logan during the winter months can be a challenge. For those struggling to find new activities, Hardware Ranch provides a chance to see wildlife up close.
Hardware Ranch is a 14,000-acre Wildlife Management Area that is open to the public, except for 800 acres used to feed Elk during the winter. However, visitors may go on a horse-drawn wagon ride through this area for an up-close encounter with hundreds of these elk.
The land was purchased by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources in 1946 with the purpose of providing a place for wintering elk to go, according to Northern Region Outreach program manager Phil Douglass.
“At that time, they purchased the ranch to keep peace with the farmers and ranchers in Cache Valley,” Douglass said. “The elk-feeding operation began for the purpose of keeping big game animals, especially elk, out of haystacks, residential areas and highways.”
The wildlife began to be open to the public in the 1950s. Douglass said the people who were running the operation at the time decided they would start bringing people on the hay wagon with them to watch as they fed the elk. Today, the tradition continues for a minimal fee.
“It’s a unique experience that’s difficult to replicate,” said ranch manager Brad Hunt. “We’re close to the Wasatch Front, right in the heart of Cache Valley. It’s a fun way to do something during the winter to get out of the smog and inversion that we get boxed into sometimes. You take a trip up here and actually get to see the sun shine.”
Hunt said it is a rare opportunity to be able to view elk up close.
“Elk are very aware and sensitive to what goes on in their environment, and they are very difficult to get that close to,” Hunt said. “Yet we can get you within 10 or 20 feet of them.”
Austin Hanny, a junior studying finance and economics, said he enjoys looking at the elk and the wagon ride makes for a good date.
“It’s cool being that close to the elk and being able to experience their size and awesomeness first hand,” Hanny said. “It’s pretty fun riding the sleigh out to the feeding grounds too.”