Hardware Ranch cancels sleigh rides for this season
Hardware Ranch is not offering sleigh rides this year. The cancelation comes not as a result of COVID-19, but of drought.
Drought is not a new thing for Utahns to deal with, but Utah State Extension wildlife specialist Terry Messmer said this year’s drought has had a particularly bad effect on hay production.
“If you can't produce your own hay, and this year, you know, hay production was down and hay demand was up,” Messmer said.
Hardware Ranch in Cache Valley is one of the many Utah operations dealing with the decreased production, said Hardware Ranch manager Brad Hunt.
“Due to the drought conditions that the state of Utah has been experiencing this year,” Hunt said. “We were only able to raise about a fifth of what we normally raise.”
Hunt said the hay they do have is enough to take care of the ranch’s livestock and to monitor for disease, but it’s not enough to offer holiday sleigh rides through the elk meadow. Hunt said while Cache Valley residents might be disappointed, it’s the best decision.
“I do understand the value that it has to residents of Cache Valley,” Hunt said. “But ultimately, you know, we're here to manage wildlife and do what's best for wildlife.”
Hunt said rationing hay for sleigh rides this year could lead to habitat damage and decreased wildlife health. Messmer said Hardware deciding to cancel the rides is ultimately best for the animals.
“I think those are very important from the standpoint of a public education outlet, but you have to kind of balance that sociological need with the biological need of the animals,” Messmer said.
Although sleigh rides are cancelled, Hunt said there are still reasons to visit the ranch.
“They can go through the visitor center. They can see some of the new displays we're putting in. They can view the elk on the meadow,” Hunt said. “They can still have a good outing.”