Researchers say wolves could help curb wasting disease

This article dates from 2003, but it is relevant because it is so clear the Western public lands livestock industry is not interested in curbing wildlife diseases, only exploiting them for political gain . . . even diseases that threaten livestock.

The post above this one is on a closely related matter.

Researchers say wolves could help curb wasting disease. Billings Gazette.






  1. ghost grizzly Avatar
    ghost grizzly

    The first thing that has to happen is the elk and deer ranches need to be eliminated. Then let the predators kill off the infected ones. If that is possible considering the latency of prions.

  2. Monte Avatar

    Thanks for putting this up again Ralph. Wolves make a lot of sense for so many reasons, but this is such a clear no brainer. Wolves are made to order to control or eradicate diseases in their prey.

  3. BW Avatar

    What makes you think wolves won’t further spread CWD? What happens if wolves become infected with CWD by consuming infected deer/elk?
    I wouldn’t be so eager to expose wolves to CWD as I believe wolves played a role in the spread of Brucellosis by changing elk migration patterns and behavior.

  4. Buffaloed Avatar

    Wolves reduce disease Bob. The fact that YOU feed elk in Wyoming is the biggest contributor to the prevalence of brucellosis not that wolves kill unhealthy elk. Everyone with any shred of credibility knows that concentrating any population, elk, fish, cattle, chickens, increases the possibility of an epidemic. It’s Ecology 101 Bob.

  5. Mack P. Bray Avatar
    Mack P. Bray

    Hey, BW – Bob Wharff – Executive Director of Sportsmen for (some) Fish and (some) Wildlife of Wyoming – what makes you think wolves might spread CWD? Do you have any scientific studies that indicate the possibility? If you do, post them. If you don’t, you’re simply speculating, which is another word for bullshitting.

    Hey, BW – Bob Wharff – Executive Director of Sportsmen for (some) Fish and (some) Wildlife of Wyoming – what makes you think wolves could harbor a new form of CWD? Do you have any scientific studies that indicate the possibility? If you do, post them. If you don’t, you’re simply speculating, which is another word for bullshitting.

    Hey, BW – Bob Wharff – Executive Director of Sportsmen for (some) Fish and (some) Wildlife of Wyoming – what makes you think wolves “played a role in the spread of Brucellosis by changing elk migration patterns and behavior?” Do you have any scientific studies that indicate the possibility? If you do, post them. If you don’t, you’re simply speculating, which is another word for bullshitting.

    One would think that the Director of Sportsmen for (some) Fish and (some) Wildlife of Wyoming would rely on science to back up his statements. But consider that this bullshit group supports the artificial feeding of elk in feedlots in Wyoming, which contradicts all science to the contrary.

    Sportsmen for (some) Fish and (some) Wildlife is a bullshit group promoting bullshit wildlife management.

    ‘Cuse my French.

    Hey, Bob, why don’t you use your real name when you post here?

    Mack P. Bray
    My opinions are my own

  6. BW Avatar

    Mack P. Brayn,

    You are so smart. I am impressed by your intelligence. I hope others see it as well.

    Do you have any scientific studies to show that wolves won’t spread CWD?
    Do you have any scientific studies to show that wolves won’t contract CWD if they consume CWD infected animals?
    Do you have any scientific studies to show that wolves didn’t cause Brucellosis to be spread by changing elk migration patterns and behavior? Did you see that Wyoming and Idaho lost their Brucellosis free status and that Montana nearly did as well? I am sure that is simply a coincidence isn’t it?

    By the way, that isn’t French either.

    I don’t need to spell out my name as you are there to do it for me.

  7. catbestland Avatar


    It’s comments like yours suggesting that wolves are responsible for the spread of disease instead of their helping to eliminate them, that get your supporters all fired up, thinking they have the truth. Then they go into Court armed with non-scientific crap, and they lose. This is a contributory factor to why so much time and money is wasted in Court. Yet you like to complain that environmentalist do nothing but waste time and money in Court. You want to cut down on the spread of CWD? Then stop supplemental feeding elk and deer. Do you actually imagine that you have a better plan than Nature? We have all seen what happens when man thinks he can manupulate the laws of Nature for profit. Our wildlife is a force of Nature just like wind and water. Push it too far and it will push back. Maybe not with a destructive counter assault but possibly with diseases and other negative environmental and economical impacts. There is an unmistakable division between those who would protect the natural world and those who would exploit it for profit. I would not want to come down on the wrong side of that argument when the final curtan falls.

  8. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Wolves do change elk migration patterns, Bob W., it’s pretty clear that they keep them spread out more and they push them off the diseased feedgrounds.

    Wyoming Game and Fish employees have been complaining bitterly for years that the wolf-exposed elk act wild and are wary of predators. This makes it harder to pitch hay to them . . . . how awful! 😉

    Wolves are nature’s herd dogs, and they do a damn good job keeping the herds strong, healthy and wild — just like some weak human hunters don’t like.

  9. catbestland Avatar


    YOU are the one making claims that you CANNOT support with scientific fact. Put forth your evidence and let it be argued. What you ask is the same as asking all non- suspects to prove where they were during the course of a crime. This is not a reasonable request. Wolves do not have to prove their innocence. They are not suspect in the transmittal of disease by any credible evidence. You have to prove that they are. Which you can’t. The burndon of proof lies on the accusor. However, evidence CLEARLY indicates that the congregating of herds at feeding lots WILL increase the spread of disease.

  10. BW Avatar


    All I did was ask a question. You didn’t answer any of my questions either. I have not offered any scientific evidence because none exists either way. Why am I wrong to ask such a question? Until the science is there to answer this question we all should be concerned, right?

    Does anyone know that is not a potential outcome?

    I guess I shouldn’t ask hard questions as they may complicate the debate. You are all so mature.

    Feedgrounds did contain Brucellosis pretty well until wolves altered their distribution. They probably also push diseased elk out of National Parks as well, Ralph. So I guess that you agree wolves could have spread Brucellosis then.

  11. catbestland Avatar


    “They probably pushed diseased elk out of National Parks as well, Ralph.” There you go making unsubstantiated claims again. The truth is that the feeding grounds are breeding grounds for disease. It is not natural for elk and deer to congregate as the feeding grounds force them to. The development and spread of disease is inevitable.

    “I guess I shouldn’t ask hard questions as they may complicate the debate.” You didn’t ask any questions. You made an unsubstantiated claims that wolves spread disease. As you suggest we all should be concerned. If you are concerned, why don’t you take a public stand against the unnatural practice of supplemental feeding which is known to be a source of the spread of disease.

  12. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    The feedgrounds have had brucellosis long before the wolves returned.

    This is well documented. The testing of the degree to which it is true has probably become more accurate and frequent.

  13. skyrim Avatar

    I’ll write it again: “There are a lot of biologists that are full of bullshit. They make up a lot of convenient lies to support their own agenda.” Don Peay.
    BW’s name was mentioned in the article where the quote came from. I didn’t read it all but I guess Peay could have been referring to BW. That’s kinda where I see it.
    My opinions are also my own.

  14. BW Avatar


    Your statement supports my claim. Brucellosis had been around for a long time prior to the introduction of wolves. Brucellosis was pretty well contained on elk feedgrounds but once wolves became established Wyoming, then Idaho lost their Brucellosis free designation, with Montana getting pretty neverous about their status as well. Is that simply a coincidence, maybe but it also seems reasonable to think that wolves possibly played a role in spreading Brucellosis by forcing elk to change their established distribution and behavior.

    Where was the science in Doug Smith’s article? He no more use science than have I. That article was purely his opinion. You like it, therefore, you sing his praises. My opinion differs from his (yours) so you poo-poo on my opinion. Pretty high brow given that we both expressed our opinions.

  15. Buffaloed Avatar

    Should I hazard to guess that the rate of brucellosis transmission has declined with a more dispersed elk herd? The cattle may have more contact with diseased elk because of dispersed herds but I thought SFW was concerned about wildlife. It seems that SFW is more concerned about keeping the elk concentrated and away from livestock and screw the disease.

    Idaho lost its brucellosis free status due to elk feeding situations not because elk were afraid of the wolves.

    Bob, if you wanted to avoid a transmissible disease would you go and hang out with a bunch of people that had it? If you wanted to control a transmissible disease would you tell everyone to hang out and eat at the same restaurant? That’s the kind of bullshit that you are trying to feed us here.

  16. BW Avatar

    Can’t argue with the facts, can you. I guess someone else can explain why Brucellosis was kept in check and out of livestock until shortly after wolves were established. Have at it. Your opinion is simply that, your opinion. I haven’t claimed anything, I simply threw that out for discussion. So far all that can be injected into the debate are insults and name calling. Pretty impressive site as long as you don’t rock the boat.

  17. Mack P. Bray Avatar
    Mack P. Bray

    Folks, there’s no point in trying to reason or use logic with people like BW – Bob Wharff, Executive Director of Sportsmen for (some) Fish and (some) Wildlife of Wyoming – it would be futile. People like him are obsessed with their “cause” and damn the science.

    Bob Wharff recently wrote, on this blog, that prions, the agent of chronic wasting disease, were a “life form.” This is totally bogus. Prions are not alive. One would think that the Executive Director of an organization that’s obsessed with big game would acquire a little knowledge about a big game subject before he started shooting his mouth off.

    Hey, Bob – tell us one more time about how Sportsmen for (some) Fish and (some) Wildlife is not a anti-predator group.

    Hey, Bob, why doesn’t Sportsmen for (some) Fish and (some) Wildlife have a blog? How about starting one?

    Hey, Bob, why don’t you use your real name when you post of Ralph’s blog?

    Hey, Bob, when you post here, are you doing so as Executive Director or as an independent individual?

    Anyone ever notice that Wharff rarely or perhaps never directly answers a direct question?

    Mack P. Bray
    My opinions are my own

  18. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    We think it is SFW that wishes not to rock the boat. How are you not rocking the boat? The old line ranch and the energy industry loves you, but maybe they are such a powerless and forsaken bunch? 😉

    Seems like we Idaho conservationists earn Governor Otter’s ire each day, not to mention right wing state legislators.

  19. BW Avatar

    I have rocked plenty of boats. Even sank a few of them. You are on to me though. The Black Helicopters should be landing any time now.

  20. Buffaloed Avatar

    Are you going to answer any of the questions posed to you Bob?

  21. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    During my military career, I flew on, rapelled from, or jumped out of a lot of “black” helicopters. However, they’re actually dark green.

    Just a little factoid to brighten up everyone’s day.

  22. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    Regarding the alleged “spreading around of brucellosis” by wolves, here is a quotation from the draft report of the Wyoming Governor’s Brucellosis Coordinating Committee–on which Bob Wharff himself served as a sportsmen’s representative (I myself was blackballed by Wyoming G&F from serving on the Committee because I know the facts and supported closing feedgrounds)–concerning the cause of the recent outbreaks of brucellosis in Wyoming cattle:

    “The impetus for the formation of the BCT [Brucellosis Coordination Team] resulted from an outbreak of brucellosis in a herd of cattle from Sublette County, Wyoming … [T]his outbreak resulted from contact between affected elk in the Muddy Creek Elk Feedground that had been fed on private ground [with cattle]. Review of this case suggested that at (sic) the probable time of transmission may have been Spring 2003. This occurred when the feed ground management [i.e., Wyoming G&F] could not obtain sufficient quantities of certified weed free hay due to drought conditions. [For the non-horsemen among you, you should know that horse and other livestock owners are required by the USFS to use only certified weed free hay on public land]. Thus, the US Forest Service would not allow feeding of non-certified hay on their nearby [feed] ground as is usually the case. Rather than continue to seek certified weed free hay, permission was obtained [by Wyoming G&F from the nearby private land owner] to feed the elk on private ground using non-certified hay. Apparently, insufficient distance and time separated the animals [i.e., elk and cattle] leading to transmission between the species” (pps 1-2).

    In other words, the cattle owner, Doc Jensen, allowed G&F to feed hot elk on his property in close proximity to his cattle; therein lies the source of the brucellosis outbreak in his cattle herd.

    The “authorities” have refused to allow any information to be published regarding the brucellosis outbreaks in Teton County cattle, but I suspect similar landowner and G&F negligence.

    Unfortunately, this quotation was excised from the final report released to the public. It doesn’t do to let the public know that these cattle brucellosis outbreaks were due to landowner and G&F negligence. It fit the politics better to blame the outbreaks on elk.

    Nevertheless, you won’t find a word in the final report blaming wolves for the Wyoming outbreaks, as in, “wolves chased elk off the feedground onto cattle feedlines, thus precipitating the outbreak.” Remember, it was Wyoming G&F that baited elk off the feedground on Forest land onto private property, with the property owner’s express permission to do so.

    Therefodre, this claim about wolves and brucellosis is merely another one of the “rural myths” (or rural lies, take your pick) that the livestock industry has been spreading over the last year or so to bolster their anti-wolf agitation.

    That is, they made it up folks. Surprise surprise.

    If any one wants the draft or final report concerning the brucellosis outbreaks in Wyoming cattle, email me at and I’ll send .pdfs along.

    Ecologically speaking, wolves chasing elk around can only have positive benefits, as such “spreading around” lowers elk densities and will therefore contribute to a decline and eventual disappearance of brucellosis in elk, something even Wyoming G&F admits. And that will happen, if we can get the damned feedgrounds closed.

    By the way, one of the things wrong with the proposed 10j rule revision that the FWS will issue the end of this month is that until wolves are delisted in Wyoming, the Wyoming G&F Dept. would have authority from the FWS to kill wolves for “unacceptable impacts” on elk and other big game herds, definition of which is left up to Wyo G&F.

    One of those “unacceptable impacts” justifying killing wolves is wolves chasing elk off feedgrounds. Can’t have that, can we?

    I suppose I could comment further, but I’ll leave that for others.

  23. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Thank you, Robert.

    It’s good to have the event clearly laid out, especially several years after the fact when some people figure no one really remembers. Therefore, they can say anything they please, with no one the wiser.

  24. JEFF E Avatar
    JEFF E

    Mack Bray has pointed out that Wyoming statute gives F&G authority to designate at any time any animals as predator and therefore subject to those rules under which predators may be killed, even in areas that that same animal is designated trophy or big game. What is your take on that as it may play out given Wyoming’s Management plan?

  25. Buffaloed Avatar

    Yoo Hoo! Bob! Are you going to respond or just make idiotic claims?

  26. BW Avatar

    Sorry Buffaloed I didn’t see this until just now.

    Robert is correct about the first incident; however, it took two incidents for each state (Wyoming and Idaho) to loose their Brucellosis free status. What Robert refuses to admit is hasn’t addressed is that running elk can cause healthy elk to abort their fetus. Elk which contract Brucellosis can also abort their first calf and all of this without the added pressure of wolves chasing them around.

    Now that you know this, I would hope you can now understand why I would state that wolves could have contributed to the spread of Brucellosis. All that needs to happen is for an elk to abort her fetus in close enough proximity for livestock to lick and just like that you have spread the disease. Can some else explain why after several years of containing Brucellosis, it all of a sudden exploded and cost two, almost three states their Brucellosis free status? I guess that is only a coincidence.

    While some criticize Wyoming for feeding elk it appears to me that no other viable alternatives were available. Simply closing feedgrounds is not an option as the disease would still be present. By maintaining feedgrounds, WYGF feeders are able to watch for and collect aborted fetuses. The state can then determine whether or not this was a result of the disease or something else. Robert offered everyone a copy of the report. I would encourage everyone to read it, perhaps you might learning something. As Bob stated, I was on the BCT, but I wasn’t the only person that reached the same conclusion as did the majority.

    Buffaloed: I noticed no one has attempted to answer any of my questions. Am I the only one that is required to answer questions or does that apply to everyone?

  27. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Bob Wharff,

    I wrote extensively about the first two Idaho cases (there were two over a course of years, not just one), and it is clear in both incidents, it was cattle right next to elk, elk that summer in Wyoming.

    Number was near Tetonia, Idaho (right on the Wyoming border). It was a farm with cattle pitching hay to both elk and their cattle in the same pasture in the middle of winter. They liked seeing the elk.

    The one that lost the state its status was in Swan Valley, Idaho, next to Wyoming, where Idaho Fish and Game picked up bad habits from Wyoming and fed elk near wintering cattle pastures.

  28. Buffaloed Avatar

    The biggest problem that I see here is that there seems to be only concern about elk transmitting brucellosis to livestock but no concern that elk transmit it to each other. If elk were not concentrated so closely together the disease issue would likely be reduced among the elk. The same applies to CWD. The brucellosis issue is nothing compared to CWD.

    Bob, do you have any stance on what should happen if CWD starts to occur on the feed grounds? It seems to me that you are playing with fire by keeping elk concentrated on feed grounds with CWD creeping its way closer and closer to them. Once they are in the feed grounds you will have no control over its spread. Does SFW even care about this scenario or are you going to ignore it until it occurs? I guarantee you it will and we don’t know enough about the disease yet to determine if it will be transmissible to other species including humans. The more likely scenario of spreading CWD lies with feed grounds, not wolves.

  29. Salle Avatar

    It would appear that any confined feeding of any wildlife specie will eventually result in other un-natural, so to speak, events such as some kind of disease.

    The feeding grounds might be a tourits’ eye catcher but they aren’t healthy.

    Now, just WHAT was the reason they were created and maintained?

  30. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    Let me try to answer as the questions arise:


    Wyoming Statute 23-1-302(a)(ii) states that the G&F Commission has the authority to “establish zones and areas in which trophy game animals may be taken as game animals with a license or in the same manner as predatory animals without a license, giving proper regard to the livestock and game industries in those particular areas.”

    [By the way Layton, notice the statutory difference between trophy game and predatory animal status?]

    I have pressed G&F repeatedly to describe how this provision of law would apply to wolves (not to mention grizzly bears) in the proposed trophy game area, and quite frankly, G&F refuses to answer the question. (If I were in G&F, I’d certainly duck the question). However, I intend to ask again during the upcoming “wolves as trophy game” regulations open house next week.

    I have been bringing this provision of state law to the attention of environmental lawyers for some time; it is my opinion that wolf delisting should entail the repeal of this provision. But for some reason, my warnings to the lawyers haven’t had much traction.

    My own take on this is that G&F, primarily for financial reasons (i.e., livestock depredation payments, which take a considerable chunk out of the G&F budget), is absolutely opposed to taking on wolf management and would be perfectly happy to leave wolves under federal management, all the states rights rhetoric to the contrary. It certainly doesn’t take a genius to understand that dual status violates both the ESA and the best available science, as I described above, and so if you don’t want delisting to happen, support for dual status is a good way to prevent it.

    In other words, to the extent that wolves are defined legally as predatory animals in Wyoming, the responsibility of G&F for wolf management and livestock depredation payments is lessened.

    What is not clear to me legally is whether declaring wolves to be predatory animals in otherwise trophy game areas would get G&F off the hook for livestock depredation payments in those areas. As far as I can tell from my legal research, the G&F Commission has never used its authority under this provision (e.g., for black bears or mountain lions), and I can’t find out from G&F if the provision has ever been implemented. My guess is that it hasn’t, but I could be wrong. My experience is that if bears or lions prove to be a problem from ranchers’ perspective, the Commission changes the hunt quotas rather than consider the predatory animal declaration option.

    I also suspect that using this provision still wouldn’t get G&F off the financial hook for trophy game animal damage. But there is no case law I can find on this question. It is a very technical point and I haven’t gone through all the case law arising from Title 23, which is considerable.


    As usual, BW has the facts a little in disorder. His comment above about the second incident of brucellosis in cattle fails to note that this second incident involved cattle that belonged to Doc Jensen, in whose herd the first incident occurred outside Muddy Feedground. However, the cattle in the second incident had been transported to a feedlot (near Worland, I believe), and under APHIS rules, because these cattle were no longer in the original herd, the discovery of brucellosis in them on the feedlot was considered an independent outbreak. It was this second incident that lost Wyoming its brucellosis free status.

    It is possible that healthy pregnant elk could abort their calves due to a number of causes, including coursing wolves, but I think it is highly unlikely; such a consequence would seem to contradict elk co-evolution with predation. In my experience, pregnant ungulates continue all their normal behavior, to include running, right up to parturition. In any case, I know of no research establishing that wolves coursing through elk herds causes healthy pregnant elk to abort. Perhaps BW could supply a citation that I can check out.

    There is some research that finds increased stress levels in pregnant elk from wolf presence/predation, but this research fails to address a question I think is important, and that is, do elk, even pregnant elk, eventually adapt to predation stress? Certainly, “naive” elk suddenly confronted with predation pressure from wolves could experience increased stress, as determined from elevated hormonal levels, as elk in Yellowstone did, but once experienced with predation, it also seems likely that stress levels would decrease.

    Anyone who has spent time observing wolves coursing through an elk herd and will note that once wolves select a particular animal for the kill, the other animals tend to calm down and act is if nothing has happened once the kill is made. I’ve also noticed this phenomenon in Africa with lion predation. Once the kill is made, most animals return to grazing.


    I’ve already explained how brucellosis got into the cattle herds in Wyoming, yet here’s BW still insisting that some correlation exists between the Wyoming brucellosis outbreaks and wolves on feedgrounds. Bullshit. As I said, even the ag-dominated BCT report, to which I referred above, does not make this absurd claim. It’s something these guys made up. The claim has no merit until positively proven.


    The BCT was dominated by livestock interests determined to maintain the elk feedgrounds at all costs, to keep elk off grass reserved for cattle, despite the fact that the “hot” elk from the feedgrounds in close proximity to cattle caused the outbreaks that lost the State its brucellosis free status. As I said above, I and several other conservationists who have worked this issue for years volunteered to serve on the BCT, but we were blackballed as insufficiently malleable to livestock industry demands.

    Nevertheless, there was a very numerically strong minority of BCT members, chiefly veterinarians and pathologists from the Wyoming State Vet Lab, plus Brad Mead, a Teton County rancher, that did support the phase-out of elk feedgrounds. Their minority report is part of the final report. It was the ranchers (the Stockgrowers), G&F, and of course, Bob Wharff from SFW, that strongly supported keeping feedgrounds open.


    There is more than adequate winter range for feedground elk, it’s just that it’s “reserved” for cattle. I note support for this claim in various G&F Herd Unit reports for the feedground herds.

    Even G&F admits that if elk densities were lowered by closing feedgrounds and spreading elk across the landscape, brucellosis would eventually burn itself in these elk herds. Ensuring physical separation of cattle and elk through fencing cattle feedlines would protect cattle during the relatively narrow time window in which brucellosis could be transmitted from elk to cattle–the third trimester of elk pregnancy.

    Yes, going through this transition period where brucellosis burns itself out in elk might cause livestock producers some inconvenience, but quite frankly, so what. It’s nothing compared to the problems they’ve created for elk.

    I hope that answers most peoples’ questions.

  31. BW Avatar


    Elk are herding animals which natrually congregate. I have asked this questions numerous times and to date no one has been able to answer this question; At what level of concentration are elk more/less susceptable to Brucellosis transmission? Given the fact that elk naturally herd together whether on feedgrounds or in native environments they concentrate themselves. If an abortion event takes place while in the presence of a herd most animals will naturally go over and lick the fetus. This behavior doesn’t change whether elk are on a feedground or on native ranges.

    CWD is a concern without a doubt. There is a lot of people banking on its arrival in and around feedgrounds. As the article states researchers claim that wolves COULD help curb wasting disease. Could being a key word. From the studies which I have read, CWD elk appear to have a higher resistence to CWD then do deer. The Roby Report, which SFW commissioned from a retired G&F employee, states that the elimination of feedgrounds would result in a significant reduction of the number of elk in the Jackson region. This was the focus of the report. It concluded that elk would face a minimum reduction of 60%. It also stated that other ungulates would also be negatively impacted by overloading limited winter range which is already heavily depended upon by mule deer, moose, and big horn sheep. Hopefully, that helps you understand the position that SFW has taken regarding maintaining elk feedgrounds.

    I don’t believe enough information is known about CWD to make some of the claims which you have made. For example – “I guarantee you it will and we don’t know enough about the disease yet to determine if it will be transmissible to other species including humans. The more likely scenario of spreading CWD lies with feed grounds, not wolves.” By your own admitission there remains a lot to learned about CWD. I base my comments on the observation that in the presence wolves, elk disperssion rates are higher and more frequently then prior to the introduction of wolves. That being said, I contend that this increase in disperssion rates increases the chances of uninfected elk coming into contact with infected elk. I believe this to be a logical conclusion but so many on this site either don’t want to admit it or are afraid to admit it. I don’t know how else to explain the responses I have had to the questions I asked and treatment I have received. Not one person has even attempted to answer the questions I asked!

    If the presence of wolves has caused elk to be more vigilant and disperse more as most seem to think

  32. Buffaloed Avatar

    First, what’s wrong with a decline in elk numbers? In areas where there are so many that they depend on feed to survive then it seems that there are too many for their range. It also follows that with that reduction there would be less disease because they would disperse across the landscape. After that the range would be in better condition to support the population that remains and a lesser concentration of elk would be less conducive to CDW. By stating that elk populations would decrease by 60% then wouldn’t it follow that something is severely out of whack with the feed grounds? An overpopulation of elk is not a good thing for anyone other than the industry that obviously benefits from it which is the outfitters. Again this is another subsidy to a private industry.

    Here is my shot at answering your question:

    “What makes you think wolves won’t further spread CWD? What happens if wolves become infected with CWD by consuming infected deer/elk?”

    The number of wolves on the landscape is so low that IF a wolf contracted CWD then the likelihood of it further transmitting the disease would be very low and if the did transmit the disease it would likely be to other wolves making fewer wolves which is what you want in the first place. As far as them being able to cause deer and elk to increase the rate of transmission among other deer and elk it doesn’t make sense because the wolves would keep them more dispersed and on the move then pick off the weaker infected animals earlier making those animals less likely to transmit the disease to other deer and elk.

    “I contend that this increase in disperssion rates increases the chances of uninfected elk coming into contact with infected elk.”

    I don’t agree with this statement at all. If increased dispersion rates “increase the chances of uninfected elk coming into contact with infected elk” then why do the feedground elk have such a high rate of brucellosis and the more dispersed elk have a lower rate? It’s because they are more dispersed. Essentially you have created a reservoir of disease which keeps the level in the surrounding populations higher than it would be naturally and if the reservoir wasn’t there the disease might drop or effectively disappear. It seems that you don’t understand the meaning of dispersion. It is kind of like dilution.. you know “dilution is the solution”. With more dispersed animals then an infected animal has fewer animals nearby to infect. Even if the rates in the surrounding areas increased it would only be for a short time because the rate would naturally decline because the animals are more dispersed.

    I’ll try to explain the treatment you have received here. I feel that you don’t understand biology or ecology and that you and your organization don’t represent wildlife. You appear to want to maintain artificially high populations of ungulates which become unhealthy due to disease and you want to kill the predators which are likely the most effective tool at bringing those populations into check with their habitat. You also won’t speak out against obvious threats to other wildlife populations when they are threatened by oil drilling or livestock. It appears that you represent outfitters, livestock, and other big industry and you are diverting everyone’s attention away from them and placing it on wolves. That, in a word, is BULLSHIT.

  33. catbestland Avatar

    Bravo Buffaloed,
    You hit the nail on the head with your observation that BW and his org. SFW wish to maintain artificially high populations of elk. They don’t seem to care how much of a threat of disease the feedgrounds pose or how out of balance the ecosystems are as a result. Nor do they care that the real threat to healthy elk populations are the cattle industry, oil drilling or other extractive industry. I also am not convinced that there is anything wrong in a natural drop in elk populations as long as it is due to natual phenomenon. The unnaturally high populations of elk serve only one interest, that is to sate the blood lust of the exploitive outfitting industry for profit.


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.

Subscribe to get new posts right in your Inbox

Ralph Maughan