WY brucellosis elk test and slaughter failure, may lead to more not less brucellosis

A high proportion of Wyoming elk that reside on state run elk feedlots in the winter (or the National Elk Refuge near Jackson) are infected with or exposed to brucellosis. Elk that “winter out” have far lower infection rates, but WY Game and Fish, under pressure from ag interests, wants to keep those feedlots. So last winter they began a “test-and-slaughter” experiment near Pinedale to try to reduce the disease on the feedlots.

It failed, as many had predicted. The elk were killed for nothing.
Wyoming feedlot elk are center of brucellosis in the Greater Yellowstone. It’s not YNP bison. Both Montana and Wyoming have there own separate mythologies (stories or narratives) about elk, bison, and brucellosis.

While Montana’s bison slaughter is irritating, the head-in-the-sand stance of Wyoming ag and Game and Fish is frightening because they leave an open door to chronic wasting disease (“mad elk” disease) with their feedlots.

Read about test-and-slaughter in the Jackson Hole News and Guide. Article



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  1. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    I slowly came to understand that the brucellosis controversy in both Montana and Wyoming were creations of the livestock industry.
    That was the only good explanation of Montana acting so fearful of brucellosis, when the brucellosis threat there was nil from bison and elk, and Wyoming, on the other hand, being so unconcerned that they would not even close a single elk feedground as a test.
    The mainstream media was remarkably slow to notice the contradiction, much less analyze how the two different stories (political scientists call them “narratives”) serve the same purpose, namely to keep the livestock industry dominant over wildlife in the two states.
    If brucellosis shows up somewhere else, we can bet it will be used for political purposes.

  2. Robert Hoskins Avatar

    Well, the elk from Muddy Feedground, the location of Wyoming’s elk test & slaughter “program,” were killed for a reason: to maintain the control that Wyoming’s livestock industry maintains over wildlife and wildlife management, a control that the Wyoming Game & Fish Commission has handed to the industry on a platter. Wyoming’s elk feedgrounds exist for one reason and one reason only: to keep elk off grass reserved for cattle. This is why the so-called brucellosis problem is a fraud. Wyoming’s ranchers don’t worry too much about brucellosis. What they do worry about is access to forage that wildlife eats. Were Wyoming’s ranchers truly concerned about brucellosis, the feedgrounds would have been closed a long time ago, since the feedgrounds are the continuing source of brucellosis in western Wyoming’s elk.

    The whole brucellosis bureaucracy, from APHIS to the GYIBC to the wildlife agencies in Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho, is designed to extend control over wildlife for the benefit of the livestock industry. Nothing else.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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Ralph Maughan