JACKSON, Wyo. (AP) — Wildlife officials say elk are leaving the National Elk Refuge in western Wyoming by the thousands.

The official refuge count on Wednesday fell below a 2,500 threshold that allows for the opening of the multiuse pathway paralleling Highways 26, 89 and 191 located north of Jackson.

National Elk Refuge biologist Eric Cole says during the middle of feed season, elk numbers were around 9,000. In three weeks, Cole saw the elk numbers fall from 6,200 to 3,000 to 1,600.

Hundreds of bison that come to the refuge in the winter have also left. Typically elks and bison on the land are hazed north in early May, but officials are not sure whether that operation will be necessary this year.