Getting Priorities on Track to Foster Healthy Elk Populations
Monday, November 28, 2022
After receiving input from stakeholders earlier this year, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department has released a list of priorities guiding its initial draft of a management plan for the controversial practice of feeding wild elk at winter feedgrounds.
Kristin Combs - executive director of Wyoming Wildlife Advocates - agreed with much on the list, but said she worries the emphasis on maintaining unnaturally large big-game populations could compromise herd health.
She said it's important to make space in the plan for elk's natural predators.
"The one thing we don't see in the list," said Combs, "is having a robust suite of predators and large carnivores on the landscape that can really offer free services to provide for healthy elk herds."
She said allowing predators to kill off animals that fall sick to chronic wasting and other communicable diseases will limit the risk of hunters harvesting diseased meat, and strengthen biodiversity and the region's ecosystems.
Some hunters support using feedgrounds to maintain large elk populations, and outfitters see the practice as a proven way to keep doors open for business.
Game and Fish says it expects to publish the proposal after internal review, and will accept public comments in coming weeks.
The powerful ranching lobby has urged the agency to limit conflicts between cattle and elk, in part over fears of disease transmission, and that priority made the list.
Combs noted that other western states including Colorado, Idaho and Montana that do not use feedgrounds place part of the burden of limiting conflict on ranchers.
"Fencing out elk is a requirement, or fencing in your hay stores," said Combs. "Keeping your herd separated from elk is a part of the responsibility of raising cattle, versus having the government do this for you."
Another priority is to modify feedground management to minimize disease transmission. Combs said the very nature of feedgrounds, where animals are packed together in close quarters, practically invites large-scale infections.
But she agreed with the agency's goal of helping elk transition to natural winter ranges.
"There's already a bunch of really good wild foraging areas," said Combs, "especially on the national forests, even on some private lands that are available."
get more stories like this via email
Lawmakers in the Commonwealth are considering legislation to ensure police use of facial-recognition technology also protects people's privacy and civ…
Next week, Ohio farmers and their advocates head to Washington, D.C., to push for shifting federal programs toward growing nutritious food, as …
Social justice advocates have just launched a new public education campaign. It's called "Just Safe," and it's aimed at changing the conversation …
A Nevada nonprofit is celebrating a 94% graduation rate among its high school seniors for the 2021-2022 school year. Tami Hance-Lehr. CEO and state …
Super Bowl LVII is right around the corner, which means Arizona will see hefty spending and wide exposure because of the massive sporting event…
Health and Wellness
It is not a pandemic yet, but eye doctors worry the constant use of digital devices could eventually result in long-term health problems for many …
Maine's small farmers are encouraged to complete the latest U.S. Department of Agriculture census to ensure they have a voice in federal decisions …
Environmental groups are pleased with an Iowa Utilities Board ruling that requires MidAmerican Energy to make planning studies public for its Iowa Win…