A lawsuit has been filed to eliminate supplemental feeding of elk. Columns have been written in the JHN&G supporting the concept of “incrementally closing elk feedgrounds”. This insane idea continues in spite of the undeniable facts.
Biologists say that doing away with elk feedgrounds will reduce our elk population by more than 60%, possibly as much as 80%. That means at least 15,000 elk in the Jackson Hole Area will starve to death in a harsh winter like 2016-17. While they are starving those thousands of elk will be in all of our yards destroying our landscaping and vegetation. They will be on our roads causing numerous elk/vehicle collisions, possibly killing or injuring your family. Elk will be in cattle feedlots infecting cows with brucellosis. This will put ranchers out of business. If ranchers sell out, then goodbye to our open spaces in Jackson Hole.
If our elk herd shrinks by more than 60%, then what will the wolves and grizzly bears eat? They’ve already eaten most of the moose in Yellowstone and the Teton Wilderness Area and they’ve reduced the Gros Ventre elk herd by 50%.
The alleged reason for trying to eliminate elk feeding is the possibility that Chronic Wasting Disease will eventually find its way to Jackson Hole. They warn that CWD will be the end of our elk. Not so. The Muddy Mountain elk herd near Casper has had CWD for more than 30 years and the infection rate is 6%. Every winter those elk congregate in dense herds of up to 2,000 on the same ridges. It is exactly like elk feedgrounds. That elk herd has tripled in size in the past twenty years, even with CWD.
CWD would not be the death knell for our elk. However, elimination of elk feedgrounds would be the nail in the coffin of our iconic elk herds in Jackson Hole. Proponents claim that elk can be taught to return to their native winter range. The fact is that less than one third of the original winter range remains today. What was once winter range will never be winter range again because of the development of the town and the associated sub-divisions. The inevitable result would be a two-thirds reduction in the elk herd with resulting severe depredation by large predators on the remaining one-third of the elk trying to eke out an existence on a harsh winter habitat. Actually, your yard would become winter range for starving elk.
This stupid, insane, ridiculous idea of closing elk feedgrounds should be opposed by any person who loves elk and will investigate the facts and ignore the scare tactics.