A visit to the "National Elk Soup Kitchen" at Jackson, WY



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  1. DumOleBob Avatar

    Right on da money Jeff! But, Bubba won’t let it end. He’ll insist it provides him with “hunting opportunities”.

    One winter (or more likely Spring) day there will be thousands and thousands of dead elk out there. It will not be all THAT far in the future!

  2. bob jackson Avatar
    bob jackson

    In regards to the “wild” Hoback elk herd that stays away from the feed grounds I’d bet the farm this is a herd that has family infrastructure still mostly intact. In other words the individuals in this herd still fill the roles needed to keep the cohesiveness needed for autonomy. Thus they possess the protective and scout male components, and the matriarchal components have multigenerational infrastructures in place. Plus this herd summers in an area where they are not disturbed by man all the time.

    Compare this with the herds of the feed grounds, where hunting as the states now promote, fractures families and reduces these herds to crack whore herd existence.

    The key to minimizing disease in light of the state not closing these feeding grounds, I feel, is to manage herd animals such as elk with the focus on maintaining social order within these families. Then there will be a lot more of the “wild” herds as seen at Hoback Junction. It will take an entirely “new” way of hunting (same as the Native Americans did with hunting of individual animals that stay on the fringes and surrounds of entire families etc.) but it could be done. Fractured families means tenement living (Elk Refuge) where as strong families means strong homes spread all over the landscape.

    Arguably this is a simplistic view which excludes wildlifes ability to tolerate each other in food rich areas (griz at salmon runs) but the need to maintain seperateness to maintain order in families trumps masses as now seen at the feed grounds.

  3. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Bob Jackson,

    I have found your comments about the family structure of bison and elk very interesting — refreshing.

    Most “biologists” (are they called “applied biologists?) who manage wildlife seem to be uninterested or unknowledgeable that animal “social structure” might be something to care about — something that makes a difference whether animals thrive or not.

  4. JB Avatar


    Most wildlife biologists–The Wildlife Society offers certification which is required for many State and Federal jobs–don’t receive much training in animal behavior. They take chemistry, mammology, ornithology, ecology, statistics, geology…etc, but not animal behavior. Keep in mind, wildlife management programs are generally focused on teaching students how to maintain a harvestable surplus of huntable game. Why? Because this is where the money comes from. The result is a focus on populations–not family groups and especially not individuals (much to the chagrin of animal-rights groups). I’m not making any value judgments about whether this is the “correct” course for management, just stating the facts as I see them.


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