Diseases affecting Yellowstone wildlife. Park, universities conduct research projects

See article in the Billings Gazette by Mike Stark.

Yellowstone Park has signed up Montana State University and the University of California at Davis to study and monitor wildlife diseases that beset the Park or threaten to. It is called the Yellowstone Wildlife Health Program.

Wildlife diseases have long been an interest to me as a political scientist.

Just like human diseases always have their politics (think Parkinson’s and stem cell research) so to, do wildlife diseases which are often passed to wildlife by domesticated animals, as well as passed the other way. Influenza, especially a pandemic, is generated in a genetic mixing bowl of humans, birds, and pigs, quite often in Southeast Asia, although the evidence is the “Spanish Flu” of 1918 originated in the United States and was aggravated by the domestic politics of World War I (“don’t talk about it or it will hurt the war effort”). The 1918 flu ended up killing more people, including ten times more Americans, than World War I.

There’s a blog devoted to wildlife disease. Wildlife Disease Information Node






  1. Robert Hoskins Avatar

    Unfortunately, the most likelty result of this “program” is even more of the gross mismanagement of wildlife that we now see with bison in the Park and elk in Wyoming. Ecologically, wildlife disease is an indicator of imbalances in population dynamics, especially density. Yet, no management system takes this into account and works to reduce densities by creating or protecting habitat. In Wyoming, with elk the problem of densities is deliberately exacerbated by policy designed to benefit the livestock industry, that is, using feedgrounds to keep elk away from forage reserved for cattle.

    Shall we expect a more enlightened management program from the National Park Service as a consequence of this new program? Don’t count on it.

  2. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    It’s hard to be optimistic on this. Wyoming and Montana changed from Republican to Democratic governors, but their policies on wildlife disease, especially what causes it to spread, didn’t change.

    There is a possibility, however, that Wyoming and Montana’s criticisms of Idaho’s shooter bull and related operations could shut that down, and Idaho and Montana’s criticism of Wyoming’s disease-spreading winter feedlots will provoke a change in the “petroleum” state.

    Don’t know what to think about Freudenthal. He is going to win a huge reelection victory, so he will have the political capital to force long-needed changes in Wyoming wildlife practices. The question is, “is he a true believer in the backward wildlife policies he has supported in his first term, or is he a cleaver politician saying what he needs to in order to have a secure base for reform?”

    It’s the same question I asked yesterday in another thread–is a Democratic comeback in the West going to be based on the notion that they need to become Republicans lite, in which case any comeback won’t last, or will they represent the changed West?


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