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Lawsuit Filed to End Artificial Feeding At National Elk Refuge

A coalition of environmental groups yesterday sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) seeking to halt the practice of artificially feeding nearly 10,000 elk at the National Elk Refuge in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Although the refuge is supposed to sustain healthy populations of native wildlife, the artificial winter-time elk feeding program creates crowded conditions, with consequences that are both extensive and dangerous.

The feeding grounds are hotbeds for disease transmission, including Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), a degenerative neurological illness that is similar to mad cow disease. The disease spreads rapidly among ungulate populations and poses serious disease risks to the very elk populations they aim to support and other wildlife too.

As of this year, CWD has been detected in animals in 26 states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Just in November, the first case in Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park was confirmed in a mule deer. There is no known vaccine.

Beyond shutting down the federal and 22 state-managed feedgrounds, perhaps Wyoming should allow native predators to limit the disease. Wolves are well suited to cut the disease out of the deer, elk, and moose herds because they naturally focus on culling the weak and the sick from the herd.

Instead of recognizing the value that wolves provide, Wyoming last year doubled down on its hostile and extreme anti-wolf policies and upped its wolf kill quota for the state’s “Trophy Zone” to 58 wolves, a 32 percent increase over last year’s quota of 44.

In the other 85 percent of the state, Wyoming classifies wolves as shoot-on-sight vermin; wolves and pups can be killed any time, by almost any means, and without a license.