Wyoming Kills Four Wolves, Further Damaging Ecological Balance
Wyoming Game and Fish Department ordered the killing of four wolves over the last two weeks in response to reported livestock attacks.
A helicopter was seen reportedly carrying one large wolf slung underneath as it flew to the Dell Creek elk winter feedground last week. Read more.
Hunting wolves is on 365 days a year across 85% of Wyoming, where wolves are classified as shoot-on-sight vermin. In the other 15% of the state, wolves are hunted September through December. The state’s targeted attacks on wolves, and thus the environment, are further exacerbated by the continued use of elk feedgrounds. Wyoming’s elk feeding grounds are hotbeds for disease transmission, posing serious disease risks to the very elk populations they aim to support and other wildlife too.
The Risks of Feedgrounds
Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) – a deadly illness that erodes the brains of elk and deer – is steadily spreading across Wyoming. Feedgrounds are thought to increase the spread of CWD while also severely impacting other wildlife. A coalition of conservation groups filed a lawsuit in April 2020 charging that the feeding of dense elk herds at Dell Creek (mentioned above) and other feedlots were carried out without appropriate analysis of the harmful effect on wildlife and the environment.
Phasing out feedgrounds is the best approach to mitigating disease. The elk population will return to sustainable numbers, and become healthier overall. CWD will not be able to spread as quickly if animals are dispersed naturally across the landscape.
Predators Could Be the Key
Wolves, bears and coyotes are a critical piece of maintaining a healthy elk and deer population. As these predators remove sick animals from the pack quickly, there’s less time for those individuals to spread pathogens to other members of the herd.
No doubt wolves serving as an unexpected ally in protecting the West’s most popular big game animals could be a hard reality to swallow for some hunters and hunting groups who have long opposed the predators. But even former Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks Commissioner Gary Wolfe says halting recreational hunting of large predators like cougars or wolves in areas with emerging Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) outbreaks could curb the disease.