Helping Elk Out Not Possible

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Elk in Jackson Hole Wyoming have had their migration route cut off and have come to rely on state and federal feedlots, in what is known as the National Elk Refuge. Jackson Hole, Wyoming is home to deer, pronghorn, and elk along with other animals. Jackson Hole is lovely during the summer, but not very life sustaining during the winter months. Elk did not winter there before their migration route was cut off by development.

The deer and pronghorn are still able to migrate, using the Gros Ventre River, to Green River, out to Pinedale and Rock Springs. This area needs to be kept open from development for the deer and pronghorn migration, but there is always more new development pushing in.

A question has been raised, can a migration route be created and could the elk migrate again? After looking at the question and consequences of the action, Angus M. Thuermer Jr., says "no." Many of the elk have already contracted brucellosis, and the infection could be detrimental to the cattle industry. Also the cattle eat all the natural forage around the area all summer long, there would not be much left, if any, for the elk to winter on. From The Wildlife News.


hunter25's picture

Oh the inevitable results of

Oh the inevitable results of residential expansion. It's sad to see but no way to stop it anywhere really. They try to save land here and there but the big money always wins out. We have had a lot of problems similar here in Colorado with our deer and elk. Especially here in the Roaring Fork Valley where I live. Of course here with the deer herd they just decided to reduce the herd to compenaste for the loss of habitat and winter range.

Retired2hunt's picture

  Well I have to agree with


Well I have to agree with not trying to "educate" or to generate the means for the elk to migrate and follow the route that the antelope and deer have been using.  There are several reasons for my opinion.  There is a link within the "The Wildlife News" link at the bottom of the BGH article.  That takes you to the detail of Angus' reasoning -  There he details of why the elk will not migrate to the lower desert areas when there are so many better rancher's property for their grazing.  Also the chances for Elk passed diseases requireing the killing off of entire cattle herds would cost the Wyoming DOW more than what it is paying now to feed the elk at the refuge.

There appears to be a reprieve to the feeding of the elk in the refuge this year.  If you follow this link it provides some opinion as to why the elk numbers in the refuge are far lower than normal at this time.  It also provides that since the elk are not there in full numbers yet the human intervention of feeding them will be delayed - thus saving funds alloted for the feeding.  I think their sprinkler system (last paragraph) is the best solution here and that the focus should be on continuing the growth of that sprinkler system to generate more "natural" feeding grounds within the refuge and eventually eliminate the alfalfa pellets and hay that is provided now.  This natural feeding would decrease the odds of disease being passed and offer the best financial solution - in my opinion.

The other issue here is the residual revenue streams that are currently generated from this elk refuge - i.e. the Boy Scouts auction of shed antlers, tourist dollars, etc....  Changing the current refuge and making the elk migrate would change these revenue streams.  The focus also needs to be here to not mess with the existing migration routes these animals are now using as that will generate another refuge need and more money being thrown towards another solution.




Ca_Vermonster's picture

Well, there is the "cattle"

Well, there is the "cattle" concern again.  Those big ranchers up there are very protective of their industry, as they should be.  Those states rely heavily from the revenue that they bring in.  It's sad to see that they will not be able to help the elk out, and re-establish some sort of migration route, but if they truly are infected with brucellosis, then what can you do?

And, not just the disease factor, but the idea that they would not have much natural food left due to cattle grazing is also a valid point. I guess they will have to continue the supplemental feeding if possible.

Tough to see development getting in the way of ancient migration routes like this.  The unfortunate thing is that the developers are probably using the "scenery and nature" as a selling point, but they do not realize how they are actually adversely affecting that nature.  sad.

ndemiter's picture

it's not like every animal

it's not like every animal coming out of the park has burcellosis, more like .5%

the bison herd probably has a higher rate of infection because the disease produces stilborn calves in bovine animals. i don't think it primarily affects elk.

and this Angus Thermuer ?spelling? is a writer, not a biologist.

i don't particularly care for the way the cattlemen are protected there in wyoming, i understand it's all those people have, but most of the ranchers are not poor farmers barely scraping by. these are the biggest cow outfits in the country, or even world. these guys have serious money, so the also have the political backing locally.

GooseHunter Jr's picture

While having to feed the elk

While having to feed the elk every year I am sure can get pretty costly but I woulkd think any change would herd the herd for many years to come.  Those elk have been going there for so long they may still show up and if no one is there to help they they may starve and the loss would be devastating.  Just keep it the way it is and keep the Elk refuge open, if it's not broke do not fix it.

ndemiter's picture

the part that's broke is that

the part that's broke is that the government is spending hundreds of thousadns of dollars on hay this winter to feed a few thousand wild animals for the winter. we might as well build a fence around the hay bales and turn the herd domestic so at least there will be breeding stock for later.

the situation is brought on by the trend of government budget cuts, while i have enjoyed seeing all the elk in the refuge, the practice of feeding those animals is not sustainable for the rest of our civilization.