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WYOMING WEATHER

Winter weather closes roads in southern Wyoming

ROCK SPRINGS, Wyo. (AP) - Snow and wind combined to make Christmas Day travel difficult in much of Wyoming.

The National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning for much of central and southern Wyoming on Thursday and the state Department of Transportation closed Interstate 80 between Rock Springs and Rawlins due to winter conditions.

The agency also closed U.S. 191 between the Utah state line and Interstate 80 and recommended emergency travel only on Interstate 25 north and east of Casper and on Wyoming 77 south of Casper.

The weather service says snow was falling and winds were gusting up to 42 mph in the Rock Springs area Thursday afternoon while gusts of up to 32 mph were reported in the Casper area. Freezing fog also was limiting visibility.

MONTANA AVALANCHE WARNINGS

Avalanche warning issued in area south of Bozeman

BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) - The Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center has issued a backcountry avalanche warning for the Bridger, Gallatin and Madison ranges and the Lionhead area near West Yellowstone.

Heavy snowfall and strong winds from several directions have combined to create widespread instability. The avalanche danger is rated high on all slopes. The center recommends against traveling in avalanche terrain and runout zones.

Seven to 11 inches of snow fell near Big Sky and the Bridger Ran while 6 to 8 inches fell in the mountains near West Yellowstone and Cooke City. The new snow that fell Wednesday and Thursday buried weak layers of snow, creating the danger of both natural and human triggered avalanches.

In western Montana, an avalanche warning remains in effect in the Whitefish and Swan ranges and the southern part of Glacier National Park above 5,000 feet.

WYOMING CENSUS

Wyoming's population shows small increase

CASPER, Wyo. (AP) - The U.S. Census Bureau estimates Wyoming's population increased by 930 people between July 2013 and July 2014 and it remains the least populated state with over 584,000 residents.

After accounting for births and deaths, the Census Bureau estimated nearly 2,200 more people moved out of Wyoming than moved in.

State economist Wenlin Liu tells the Casper Star-Tribune that people moved out of Wyoming because natural gas prices hit a 10-year low in the spring of 2012, slowing production and cutting available jobs.

Liu says oil exploration expanded in North Dakota, Texas and Colorado, attracting many Wyoming energy workers.

North Dakota's population growth of 2.2 percent led the nation. Colorado added nearly 84,000 residents while Montana saw an increase of just over 8,700 residents. Colorado's population is estimated at 5.36 million while Montana's is 1.024 million.

ELK REFUGE HUNT

More than 250 elk killed at elk refuge

CASPER, Wyo. (AP) - Hunters have killed nearly 270 elk on the National Elk Refuge this season, the most in any other year since 2003.

The hunt ended on Dec. 14 and hunters had reported killing 268 elk so far. Refuge staff say some reports are still coming in.

This year, late season daily permits were made available when officers noted low attendance in the field. Officials say the daily permits may have led to an increase in the number of elk killed.

Over the past decade, an average of 149 elk were killed each year on the refuge in northwestern Wyoming.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says hunting is an important wildlife management tool. The refuge seeks to limit the elk population to 5,000 to reduce the need for supplemental feed.

SheridanWyoming.com

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