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Wild Migrations

September 20, 2018
antelope in a stream
Photo by Joe Riis

A new atlas puts Wyoming’s ungulate migrations on the map.

By Bethann Garramon Merkle/WMI

One November morning, two elk left their summer range in Wyoming’s Wind River Range and began their fall migrations. Elk 218 stopped at a state-run feedground just three days later, while elk 215 migrated for 44 days to a native winter range in the Prospect Mountains. These animals were part of a study to learn how feedgrounds truncate migration and to study the physiological and other effects of feedgrounds on wild elk. Now they illustrate a pair of maps on the “Elk Feedgrounds” page of Wild Migrations: Atlas of Wyoming’s Ungulates.

For thousands of years, ungulates have migrated between seasonal ranges in the vast and beautiful landscapes of Wyoming. To many, these migrations and the animals that make them are symbols of Wyoming’s wild, intact landscapes. From mule deer and pronghorn that travel across the Red Desert to the wilderness journeys of elk and moose in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem, Wyoming boasts some of the longest and most spectacular migrations in North America. As rapidly changing landscapes threaten the future of these migrations, research at UW has broken new ground in understanding Wyoming’s ungulate migrations and raised awareness of the ecological benefits of these seasonal journeys, their rarity in a global context and the threats they face amid accelerating land-use change.

Wild Migrations book cover

While there is considerable interest in conserving ungulate migration routes in Wyoming and the West, a comprehensive story has never been told of Wyoming’s extraordinary ungulate migrations. That’s why in 2012, UW faculty and alumni launched the project that would become Wild Migrations. Matt Kauffman, director of UW’s Wyoming Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit in the Department of Zoology and Physiology and the Wyoming Migration Initiative (WMI), is the book’s lead author. He explains the goals of the atlas are “to synthesize disparate spatial data on migration and to elevate awareness of this ecological phenomenon as a means of advancing conservation and management efforts.”

Wild Migrations draws upon a wealth of knowledge built through several decades of intensive study by biologists at UW, state and federal agencies, and private firms, as well as on-the-ground expertise of many of Wyoming’s wildlife managers. Two of the co-authors, James E. Meacham and Alethea Y. Steingisser, led the award-winning cartographic team at the University of Oregon Department of Geography’s InfoGraphics Lab (the producers of the Atlas of Yellowstone) that designed the many maps and graphics in Wild Migrations. Two other co-authors and alumni, WMI co-founder William J. Rudd and WMI research associate Hall Sawyer, contributed their expertise in wildlife ecology and management. The Haub School of Environment and Natural Resources’ Emilene Ostlind, also a co-author and alumna, was the text editor for the entire project. Photography by alumnus Joe Riis, WMI photography fellow and National Geographic photographer, appears throughout the book.

The Wild Migrations atlas covers more than 50 migration topics—including historical perspectives on migratory wildlife, threats to migration, ecology, conservation and management, all illustrated with data-rich and visually stunning maps and graphics. For example, one set of pages illustrates the Teton Range bighorn sheep response to the loss of historical migration routes, while another covers the challenge expanding energy development in Wyoming poses for long-distance migrations. A large-format reference book, Wild Migrations is the perfect library addition for any reader interested in wildlife and landscapes of the American West, including hunters, students, biologists, land managers, decision-makers, educators and outdoor enthusiasts. Learn more and pre-order your copy today at, or look for the atlas in the University Store and bookstores near you starting this October.

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