More elk feeding?

[Thursday April 3, 2008]  One of the other major wildlife management problems of the Greater Yellowstone Area popped up recently. Bridger-Teton National Forest officials have broached the idea of increasing the size of the elk feeding areas near Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. Although the killing of 1400 bison attempting to leave Yellowstone National Park has garnered most of the attention this winter, the elk herd in the Gros Ventre river drainage is often controversial for much the same reason – the danger of spreading the disease brucellosis to domestic cattle.

Because of  their greater numbers elk can be even more active carriers of brucellosis than bison. The large elk herd that winters in and near the National Elk Refuge in Jackson Hole has been the long-time focus of controversy for all of northwest Wyoming. For some time wildlife management experts have been recommending that winter feeding of elk in the region be curtailed or phased out to help control the concentration of animals and the spread of disease. The new proposal, which is part of a draft Environmental Impact Statement, instead recommends additional feeding and management facilities because of increased wolf activity. Wolf pressure tends to drive the herd into smaller areas, which makes disease transmission more likely. The Wyoming Game and Fish agency, along with Bridger-Teton National Forest officials contend that opening more feeding stations will help spread the herd out. Others say that it avoids the overall issue of whether the elk should be winter-fed at all.

In various forms, this is a decades-old issue, which remains a long way from resolution.


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