Conservationists. Half a win; half a loss on National Elk Refuge elk feeding

Appeals courts says elk feeding is not illegal, but risky-

This issue is closely related to the Wyoming wolf plan story because Wyoming just loves feeding elk, and dragging along the federal government to feed them too

Conservation groups appealed the loss in their effort to stop elk and bison feeding on the National Elk Refuge. The court said that Secretary Salazar was not required to set a date to stop this long standing practice. However, they did give the feeding a tongue-lashing. The appeals count panel wrote “The whole point of a National Elk Refuge is to provide a sanctuary in which populations of healthy, reproducing elk can be sustained, but “The refuge can hardly provide such a sanctuary if, every winter, elk and bison are drawn by the siren song of human-provided food to what becomes, through the act of gathering, a miasmic zone of life-threatening diseases.”

Here are the details from the Jackson Hole Daily, Court says feeding risky.  By Cory Hatch



  1. Larry Thorngren Avatar

    The Elk Refuge was established to mitigate the loss of elk wintering areas due to human developments in Jackson Hole.
    I am one who thinks that feeding elk in this instance is a good idea.

  2. Ralph Maughan Avatar
    Ralph Maughan

    Larry Throngren,

    There is a bit more to this issue than the Elk Refuge making up for the loss of the wintering areas near Jackson due to settlement.

    In fact the judges pointed to the irony of the situation — intended to make up for lost habitat, but the refuge becomes a place of massive disease transmission.

    1. jb Avatar

      Ralph: I know the risk of disease transmission increases in this setting, but has disease prevalence actually increased in elk that winter in the sanctuary? Just wondering if there is data?

      1. Ralph Maughan Avatar
        Ralph Maughan


        There are probably data existing that can be compiled to look for a trend, although you have to realize that only disease that manifests on the Refuge during the winter is observable. The most important disease may be those transmitted but not obvious. I am thinking of brucellosis and CWD.


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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