Dr. Bruce Smith tells truth about feeding elk that Wyoming politicians need to heed, but refuse

After 22 years as the chief biologist at the National Elk Refuge, Bruce Smith pens an easy-to-read, but stark warning about continuing elk feeding-

Prions are bit like tiny pieces of radioactive material in that they are very dangerous promoters of illness and for practical purposes never really go away, resting in the dust and grass ready to kill far into the future. On the other hand, they are not radioactive. They are just proteins, but proteins that are deformed and infectious like viruses, brain eaters that are not even alive.

Wyoming’s politicians are a strange breed when it comes to elk and many other animals. They worry greatly about a couple hundred wolves that are arguably making the elk herds there stronger by culling out disease, but they can’t bring themselves to deal with a nightmarish microscopic killer protein, the prion that causes a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy, more commonly called chronic wasting disease or just plain “mad elk disease” among elk, deer, moose, and many more animals.

Dr. Bruce Smith has spent his career studying and managing elk on the Wind River Indian Reservation and the famed National Elk Refuge at Jackson, Wyoming. Recently retired from federal public service, he has written Where Elk Roam: Conservation and Biopolitics of Our National Elk Herd. (see also at amazon.com). It is beautifully written and it is also a last ditch warning to Wyoming where business interests can’t wean themselves from the tourists who want to see them feed elk and the hunters who think winter feeding of elk keeps the herds big and strong.

Todd Wilkinson has an excellent interview of Dr. Smith in the latest Wildlife Art Journal.An Interview With Biologist Bruce Smith About Mad Elk Disease*. Author of ‘Where Elk Roam’ Tackles Threats To America’s Most Famous Wapiti Herd.” Written By Todd Wilkinson.

Unfortunately we have already heard from Wyoming’s state game vet on the issue. Can anyone guess what they are going to do 🙁

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  1. Terry S. Singeltary Sr. Avatar

    Monday, November 14, 2011

    WYOMING Creutzfeldt Jakob Disease, CWD, TSE, PRION REPORTING 2011


    Wednesday, November 16, 2011

    Wisconsin Creutzfeldt Jakob Disease, CWD, TSE, PRION REPORTING 2011


    Sunday, November 13, 2011




    1. Salle Avatar


      Thank you for posting those “lit-links”.


      1. Terry S. Singeltary Sr. Avatar

        your welcome Salle !

        please let me add, that i am a layperson. i have simply been following they ever emerging strains of the Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies as they emerge, and they are multiplying, and becoming more virulent. I am NOT anti-hunter, I am a carnivore. I lost my Mother to the Heidenhain Variant of Creutzfelt Jakob Disease December 14, 1997, and I never bought the UKBSEnvCJD only theory. back then there was very little TSE prion information at hand, so i just made a promise to her. the truth should be known. and it seems i have wasted 14+ years trying to do that. i do not advertise on the blogs, as i think science on these TSE prion disease should be free to the public, they are for educational purposes to help prevent the further spreading of the TSE prion agent. when you don’t speak of it, and continue to hide it, the TSE prion agent will continue to spread. ignorance and the almighty dollar is what continues to fuel the spreading of the TSE prion agent. …

        thank you,
        kindest regards,

    2. Nancy Avatar

      Terry – a couple more sites



      +In addition to bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) of cattle and scrapie of sheep and goats, a few other animal prion diseases have been reported. These include feline spongiform encephalopathy of zoological and domestic cats (FSE) and transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE) of zoological ruminants and non-human primates, as well as chronic wasting disease of deer and elk (CWD)+

      Evidence is there Terry, the only problem is – little effort is being shared (or brought to the forefront) as long as mankind’s spindoctors can blame it on other “simple” little things like allergies, chronic bowel or old age.

      1. Nancy Avatar

        Oh and I forgot to add – whip out a wonderful pill to address anything other than the cause….

  2. JEFF E Avatar
    JEFF E

    what they will do is continue the feedlots and blame any negative consequences on wolves,

    wait and see

  3. Ron Kearns Avatar
    Ron Kearns

    I agree that Mr. Wilkinson conducted an exceptional interview, including informative video links. Dr. Smith is an articulate speaker and a consummate wildlife scientist. I will purchase either an e-book or hardcopy of ‘Where Elk Roam’.

    As a retired wildlife biologist and former Army senior veterinary animal specialist—who has a keen interest in parasitology/histology—the subject of mysterious, devoid of nucleic acid prions is intriguing.

    Thank you for posting this article; otherwise, I would have most likely overlooked an important chronicle of the Jackson Hole/ National Elk Refuge saga.

    Incidentally, I am strongly opposed to domesticated, livestock-like supplemental feeding of wildlife—a perspective founded upon biological, epidemiological, and philosophical principles.

  4. Kayla Avatar

    Personally I have just recently started reading his book which is a good read. One thing for sure here in Wyoming with all the Hunters …. issues as concerning the Elk are anymore Big Politics! I personally am not a Hunter with being just more of a Wilderness wanderer! I love to see the landscape covered with wildlife! I personally like the idea of cutting off the feeding, (except for maybe super harsh winters possibly), and teaching the Elk to somehow relearn those old migration paths. It can be done do think. But remember several springs ago, when the pickup trucks where lined up for how long of a distance, with all of these hunters and people donating hay to the Elk Refuge to feed the Elk.


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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