Scientists say that whether Jackson Hole CWD Elk Case No. Elk are fed on the same 5,000 acres of [the National Elk Refuge] each year, and “given the persistence of CWD prions in the environment, these areas will likely … The impacts on elk numbers in Yellowstone were initially quite dramatic. “This wakeup call of having a CWD-positive elk in Jackson Hole isn’t likely to change anything for the state of Wyoming,” Smith says, noting that the state’s latest stalling tactic has been asking citizens what they want rather than heeding an overwhelming body of scientific evidence.”. Share this article share ... A great white shark nicknamed Deep Blue is considered by many to be the … ", Also in its CWD Management Plan, Wyoming defends continued operation of the feedgrounds. “Unfortunately, CWD has since been documented throughout most of the state, with many mule deer and white-tailed deer herds now exhibiting CWD prevalence levels high enough to potentially impact population performance. Where would the elk go? Now, in more ecologically-enlightened times, this management practice is highly controversial. It would be one thing if all of this involved a population of white-tailed deer in the Upper Midwest, but Wyoming’s “obstinance,” he says, is putting the ecological integrity of the globally-renowned Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem at risk. An outbreak of CWD that begins in Jackson Hole is not going to stay confined to Jackson Hole, epidemiologists say. Facebook, Natural Habitat Adventures Candice Gaukel Andrews Good Nature Conservation Wildlife Nature WWF Travel Photography Biodiversity Ecotourism Adventure Travel Climate Change Africa Polar Bears wild Adventure Alaska Global Warming Churchill. Feb 7, 2020 - Explore Marilyn's board "Big bull Elk" on Pinterest. Photo courtesy US Fish and Wildlife Service. Over 15,000 elks can be found in the park. An entity called “The Yellowstone Coordinating Committee” is comprised of top federal agency managers and. And when we do feed elk, we will practice low-density feeding to the extent possible, to spread animals out and reduce the risk of disease transmission.”, Gocke put a positive spin on how Wyoming is dealing with CWD. Western Wyoming is home to the largest unnatural wildlife feedground complex in the world. Moreover, the Elk Refuge CWD response strategy alludes to how insidious CWD can be. Cole circulated information via email to wildlife colleagues and interested citizens that left many shocked. As thousands of elk congregate into the Jackson Valley each winter, their concentrated living conditions raise the risk of disease spreading throughout the herd. Three years ago, the Elk Refuge convened a large group of scientific experts who warned about potentially dire consequences. The gist is this: Be it elk, mule deer or more prolific white-tailed deer moving across or wintering on private ag lands, should CWD become established in the hundreds of thousands of wapiti and deer. A similar strain is found in cattle and is commonly known as mad-cow-disease (bovine spongiform encephalopathy). We may be better off than trying to initiate or use too much science to manage maybe what science shouldn’t be doing that.”, Apparently lost on Taylor was that letting animals kind of do their thing would mean not feeding elk. Durbian noted, just as his predecessor Brian Glaspell did, that no coordinated plan exists, which disease experts say is exactly what’s required if there’s any hope of preventing multiple CWD flareups. Yellowstone officials say they will readily remove and test animals that appear sick or those struck and killed by vehicles, though they acknowledge it can be difficult telling the difference between an animal left lean and haggard by winter only to die in spring and an animal in the early stages of CWD. 2012. As competition between Jackson residents and wildlife persisted, the region’s elk population began to dwindle. The current supplemental feeding regime will exacerbate the effects of CWD on the Jackson Elk Herd because elk density at NER far exceeds elk density reported at Rocky Mountain National Park, which was the source of the annual infection rate used in the model.”, Elk are fed on the same 5,000 acres of [the National Elk Refuge] each year, and “given the persistence of CWD prions in the environment, these areas will likely become heavily contaminated with the CWD prion over time if status quo management continues. There is also no evidence the practice is likely to increase harvest sufficiently to overcome the negative effects of those increases by disease transmission” if and when animal mortality outpaces reproduction in a population. For decades, both Roffe’s former employer, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, which manages the Elk Refuge, and the US Forest Service which permits Wyoming to operate feedgrounds on federal public lands under its jurisdiction, have faced professional and judicial excoriation for being less than vigilant in taking precautionary action. But even having 5000 elk, Classified within a family of prion diseases closely related to Mad Cow, CWD was first identified in Colorado in 1967 and since has spread to deer, elk and moose in 26 states and appears to be on the verge of soon reaching a dozen states more. Elk are the most abundant large mammal in Yellowstone, and probably one of the most photographed animal in the park with their impressive antlers. Perhaps the closest thing to a mea culpa for inaction coming from Wyoming is this passage in its CWD plan, which people like Roffe, Reiswig, Smith and others agree with. ®WWF and World Wildlife Fund are WWF Registered Trademarks. “Unfortunately the U.S. Disease experts say, ironically, that feedgrounds bolster brucellosis infection rates in elk that disperse more widely around the ecosystem yet of graver concern is that feedgrounds will exacerbate the spread of CWD. Worthy of note is that Roffe was lead author of a peer reviewed document published by the USGS put into wide circulation. As a result, it created an unnatural massing of elk in the high-elevation valley that previously did not exist prior to the arrival of white homesteaders. Some biologists observe that traditional winter-feeding of wild elk has generated a habitual dependency on the Jackson Valley. “Prior to hay being purchased and transported to elk feedgrounds, the [Wyoming Game and Fish] Department will consider the spatial and temporal relationships between the location of potential source hay fields and the prevalence and distribution of CWD in cervids in these areas. Get a catalog of the world’s greatest nature journeys! Prion uptake in plants is being studied at the USGS National Wildlife Health Center. Since the initial discovery of CWD in 1985 in a free-ranging mule deer in Wyoming, the Department has not implemented any formal strategies to combat the spread or prevalence of this disease,” authors of the Wyoming plan write. 60-80. Where Elk Roam: Conservation and Biopolitics of Our National Elk Herd. We need to start phasing out elk feedlots now, before a chronic wasting disease epidemic decimates wildlife in northwestern Wyoming and the entire region.”. “No strategy has been effective at eradicating CWD from areas where the disease is present," the document further states. On January 20, 2017, only weeks after the CWD forum was held in Jackson Hole, Eric Cole, a longtime Elk Refuge senior biologist, delivered a corroborating shot across the bow. 2nd ed. CWD is characterized as a disease that typically is slow to take hold in elk and deer but over time, as infection rates rise, it can lead to population-level declines. If an area becomes contaminated, it will continue to harbor infectious agents for a substantial amount of time and may spread indirectly to other animals visiting the area. It is under withering scrutiny as disease experts say feeding, which puts elk at grave risk of catching CWD, could actually lead to the destruction of animals it was intended to save. The years have shown, critics say, that nearly all of Wyoming’s predictions about CWD—that it would spread slower than it has, that it wouldn’t severely impact deer, that there would be a vaccine, and that CWD might not reach elk on the feedgrounds—have been wrong. Basically, as wolf numbers went up, elk numbers went down. With the money that was left over from the land purchase, managers bought supplemental feed for elk. After decades of debate over whether this range was overgrazed by too many elk, some concern has shifted to the herd’s small size. The Northern Yellowstone elk herd, one of the most famous and closely watched in the world, is finally growing at a healthy clip. Led by world-class naturalist guides, our eco-conscious expeditions take you to the world's most remarkable nature locales. Confirmation that a cow elk in Grand Teton National Park, killed by a big game hunter, has tested positive for the dreaded always fatal disease which strikes members of the deer family, was announced Friday. Up to that point, a state wildlife biologist had claimed erroneously. Once an elk, deer or moose is infected, it can take around 16 months for the animal to appear ill, though it is still shedding prions and potentially getting shot and eaten by hunters if they don’t have it tested for disease. Smith BL. The elk (Cervus canadensis) or wapiti is one of the largest species within the deer family, Cervidae , and one of the largest terrestrial mammals in North America, as well as Central and Northeast Asia . Not only does spreading out feeding, when it involves large numbers of elk year after year, actually lead to more contaminated areas, Roffe says, but it discounts the fact that if infected animals are urinating, defecating, spewing saliva and dying, invisible prions will persist beneath clean or sullied snow. The state says feedgrounds are necessary to allegedly reduce the spread of brucellosis when, in fact, it is feedgrounds that are known reservoirs for brucellosis and are certain to be accelerants for CWD. Bull Elk battle in the middle of the Madison river in Yellowstone National Park.. This, then, raises a question: how could thousands of acres encompassing feedgrounds and the Elk Refuge be decontaminated in a way that renders prions inactive and unlikely to infect elk and deer year after year? Roffe scoffs at this, noting that there probably won’t be any overt clinical signs of CWD in many affected animals and that by the time an animal looks sick, transmission of prion contagions to other animals has already happened. And, of course, CWD infected animals would be shedding prions along the way. What if there were fewer elk and they weren't fed? The Future of Ecological Process Management. Reiswig says that in the case of the Elk Refuge, the only way feeding will be stopped is if an edict comes down from the Fish and Wildlife Service Director in Washington DC, or arrives via a federal court order compelling the Elk Refuge to take action, or involves an act of Congress. Get travel and wildlife news delivered to your inbox! p. 255-266. The NER is truly a refuge for this migratory species. A Yellowstone wolf. Get your free copy of our catalog of The World’s Greatest Nature Journeys! Wapiti. When you are concentrating that many animals and those few acres over time you are sowing the seeds of destruction.”. "To reduce the risk of CWD transmission and establishment of CWD through unnatural concentrations of cervids, states and provinces should eliminate the baiting and feeding of all wild cervids using regulatory mechanisms such as jurisdictional bans," the contributors and reviewers of the AFWA report, which includes Wyoming’s senior wildlife health official Hank Edwards, write. While elk feedgrounds continue to address those issues, they now also facilitate spatial and temporal separation of elk and cattle to reduce the spread of brucellosis.”. These bull elk are not sick with CWD but left haggard and fragile by a long hard winter. The camps offer some of the finest big game hunting in America. If a disease infected the Yellowstone elk population, it could negatively affect many other species that are dependent on the elk. “Surveillance for the majority of these populations is difficult because they are widely distributed in high mountain habitats during summer and winter at lower elevations outside the park,” authors of Yellowstone CWD Surveillance Strategy add. Elk of Yellowstone Park. A trip to Yellowstone has been on my bucket list for quite some time so hopefully, I’ll be able to complete it in a few years. Nat Hab’s weekly eNewsletter highlights exclusive offers, webinars, nature news, travel ideas, photography hints and more. In his critique of the Elk Refuge feeding step-down plan, Roffe expresses incredulity that a landscape-level infectious disease like CWD is not being met with a comprehensive strategy from federal and state agencies in the three-state Greater Yellowstone region. Let the animals kind of do their thing. ©1986 Panda Symbol WWF p. 877–886. The need to develop proven methods to manage CWD is now readily apparent, and doing nothing to combat this disease is no longer acceptable, a sentiment strongly echoed within hunter survey data.”, Connie Wilbert, state chapter director for the Sierra Club in Wyoming, one of the groups that sued to compel the Elk Refuge to halt feeding says, “There is no time to waste. In: Chapman J, Feldhamer G, Thompson B, editors. In: White PJ, Garrott RA, Plumb GE, editors. They are a little smaller than moose with a weight of around 300 kg and height of 1.5 m at the shoulder. Occasionally live animals are killed to be tested. In November 2018, Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), an incurable affliction that infects all species of North American deer, manifested itself near Jackson, WY. Despite the Elk Refuge pledging that it would make good and end feeding, and then implementing the step-down plan,  Roffe notes the refuge went backwards. Both groups claim that stopping or drawing down feeding would result in a massive die-off of elk—an assertion that has never been tested nor is there compelling research to suggest it’s true. On any given winter, 80 percent of those wapiti get artificial nourishment at the National Elk Refuge. Researchers have said that elk density in the park is one reason for facilitating faster spread of CWD in Rocky Mountain. It is assumed that if the disease becomes established, artificially concentrating elk on feedgrounds may result in more rapid spread of CWD and contribute to increased persistence of prions in the soil and uptake by vegetation.”. Guilford (CT): Lyons Press. As such, management efforts designed to reduce the spread and prevalence of CWD are warranted.”, When asked directly if Game and Fish has any plans now to alter feeding at the state-run facilities, Gocke says the agency “will more intensively monitor feedgrounds and surrounding areas for any elk appearing ill or exhibiting clinical signs of CWD and those animals will be lethally removed, sampled, tested and properly disposed of in a timely manner. But Dr. Tom Roffe, a veterinarian, research ecologist and former national chief of animal health for the Fish and Wildlife Service, penned a stinging critique of that plan. "The Refuge can hardly provide such a sanctuary if, every winter, elk and bison are drawn by the siren song of human-provided food to what becomes, through the act of gathering, a miasmic zone of life-threatening diseases.”. Every one has come back negative. They are instead strange contorted proteins that cause irreversible incurable disease in the brains and central nervous system of victims. However, it is possible that one or several CWD-infected elk or deer could wander around live and remain undetected for a couple of years. Photo courtesy Mark Gocke/Wyoming Game and Fish. The refuge could just as easily become a conduit for disease and death, potentially collapsing one of the largest elk herds in the world. Twitter Two of Yellowstone's largest grizzly bears clash over an elk carcass offering a spectacular crash course in bear behavior, hierarchy, and safety. Together, Nat Hab and World Wildlife Fund offer nature travel experiences to over 50 countries around the planet. Yellowstone Elk Facts. Some say we’ll come up with a vaccine, which we don’t have. The NER is a place where healthy and sick animals come together and, therefore, is naturally an area of concern. Any elk exhibiting clinical signs of CWD shall be lethally removed, sampled, tested, and properly disposed of in a timely manner. The overture was ignored. The federal USGS, the government’s top biological/geological research bureau, says CWD has also been identified in over 175 captive cervid (deer family) facilities, many of them “game farms” where domesticated wild deer and elk are available. Other factors such as heavy elk hunting, harsh winters and impacts from other predators such as bears and coyotes has led to a further decline in elk populations. Therefore, the movement of deer, via migration or human transportation, greatly increases the risk of the disease spreading. Prions are not organic organisms like viruses and bacteria. “If CWD is detected in elk inhabiting feedgrounds, [Game and Fish] Department personnel will monitor the feedground and surrounding area intensively. Increase our impact by sharing this story. Some states also have adopted a strategy of severely knocking down deer numbers or depopulating entire small local herds to prevent spread as well as banning the transportation of deer carcasses out of areas. At that meeting, Rocky Mountain National Park was cited as a reference point. Cambridge (MA): Harvard University Press. All North American deer can be infected by CWD, including elk, mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus), white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), moose (Alces alces), and caribou (Rangifer tarandus). One of the cardinal rules in prevention and containment of a contagious disease is taking aggressive measures to limit possibilities for exposure, including minimizing large gatherings of potential victims and carriers. Levels of cow elk harvest [ e.g Hab ’ s greatest nature journeys `` also! Annual superspreader event for elk and deer afflicted with CWD but left haggard and fragile by a wolf pack the... 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