Admission. Forest Service says elk feedground will spread Chronic Wasting Disease

B-T Forest renews elk feedground while admitting it will spread brucellosis, parasites and chronic wasting disease-

Acting Bridger-Teton National Forest supervisor Kathryn Conant is going to renew the special use permit for Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s Alkali Creek winter elk feedlot which is up the Gros Ventre River, sandwiched between the gravel road and the Gros Ventre Wilderness.

Two other elk feedgrounds are further downriver — Patrol Cabin and Fish Creek. Their permits were renewed several years ago.

Alkali Creek feedlot in the summer. Copyright Ralph Maughan
Alkali Creek feedlot in the summer. Copyright Ralph Maughan

State run elk feeding is controversial. There is much of it in Wyoming, but most other Western states don’t do it, or do it less than Wyoming. It is controversial precisely because it spreads disease by concentrating the elk too close together. On the other hand, feeding keeps the elk off of private land, where cattle might graze or there might be homes. In Jackson Hole it is also a winter tourist attraction, but not so much up the Gros Ventre River east of Jackson Hole.

Hunting outfitters like winter feeding because they believe it holds up the elk population by preventing winter starvation. On the other hand, there is no doubt it facilitates disease. The worst is chronic wasting disease (CWD) which is clearly closing in on the Greater Yellowstone in Wyoming. CWD is an ultimate disease. Its infectious prions lie in the soil seemingly in permanence once the land is contaminated with them, waiting to infect again.

Elk have been fed in the general area for a century now. Predictions have been made that CWD will show up on the feedgrounds soon, and now it appears very soon. Acting supervisor Conant admits it, yet she approves the permit to keep Alkali Creek shoveling hay until doomsday.

Todd Wilkinson discusses her decision. Supervisor admits CWD is worse in feedgrounds. Jackson Hole News and Guide.


  1. cj Avatar

    ok and the infected elk die or have health problem ect. Deer/elk population decreases and the hunters blame the wolves. typical scenario where humans interfere but do not take on the responsibility but pass it onto another if there is a problem. how about inoculating the elk/deer so they don’t spread this CWD

    1. Ralph Maughan Avatar
      Ralph Maughan

      cj, there is no inoculation for CWD. It is similar in character to mad cow disease.

      1. rork Avatar

        As I thought we’ve mentioned here before, folks are actually working on vaccines – I remember cause I thought it inconceivable to do (since presenting the right epitope would risk giving the disease – was my thought until recently). The idea is to present a peptide that’s shaped like the miss-folded PRNP protein, but that doesn’t have the ability to miss-fold PRNP itself. Sounds hard. Trials not-so-great so far.

    2. WyoWolfFan Avatar

      That pretty much sums it up.

  2. Logan Avatar

    Seems like a recipe for disaster.

    I wonder how CWD prions hold up to fire once they get into the soil? Would wildfire or prescribed burns in the areas with CWD reduce infection rates?

    1. Mark L Avatar
      Mark L

      As I understand it, they can survive fire as well. I AM curious how well they are absorbed by diverse entities after they are airborne as ash.

      1. TC Avatar

        Prions, being nothing more than proteins, do not persist through sustained burning; if tissues or fluids containing disease forms of prions are thoroughly ashed, the prions are destroyed. One of the preferred ways to dispose of contaminated biologicals (including animal carcasses) is incineration. Having said that, disposal standards for disease prion incineration are pretty rigorous and require a medical waste or pathological waste incinerator. Hopefully most forest fires never (and no prescribed burns ever) reach those temperatures for required sustained times down in humus or mineral soil layers or the soil becomes a sterile wasteland devoid of essential living organisms and nutrients (and often develops a subsurface water repellent layer). Then prions are not your main problem… So. Good question, but like many things in the biological world, probably no simple answer. My guess is many prions in litter, duff and maybe superficial humus layers burn, most (?) in mineral soil persist. Research project potential.

  3. Kyle Gardner Avatar
    Kyle Gardner

    Have there been any reports investigating whether brucellosis is part of the elk feeding ground environment? “Transmission of brucellosis” is the boogie man for area bison, but it seems the likelihood is far greater that elk are the primary host. Shut down the elk troughs and perhaps the bugs will eventually whither away. Perhaps?

    1. Ralph Maughan Avatar
      Ralph Maughan

      Kyle Gardner,

      The elk that winter in the feedlots have been tested repeatedly for brucella exposure. They have higher levels of exposure. There is no doubt.

    1. Larry Thorngren Avatar

      Terry- Has anyone infected domestic sheep with tissue from an infected CWD deer or elk?

      1. Terry S. Singeltary Sr. Avatar

        Thus far, among domestic animals, CWDmd has been transmitted by the intracerebral route to a goat18 and cattle.5–7 The present findings demonstrate that it is also possible to transmit CWDmd agent to sheep via the intracerebral route. However, the only sheep to develop clinical TSE within 35 MPI was genotypically AV at PRNP codon 136, suggesting that host genotype may play a notable part in successful transmission of the disease in this species. Although in Suffolk sheep the AV variant at codon 136 is very rare,17 selective breeding of Suffolk sheep with this codon has begun in the hope of testing this differential susceptibility hypothesis in a future study of CWDmd transmission to sheep.

        1. Terry S. Singeltary Sr. Avatar

          > First transmission of CWD to transgenic mice over-expressing bovine prion protein gene (TgSB3985)

          PRION 2014 – PRIONS: EPIGENETICS and NEURODEGENERATIVE DISEASES – Shaping up the future of prion research

          Animal TSE Workshop 10.40 – 11.05 Talk Dr. L. Cervenakova First transmission of CWD to transgenic mice over-expressing bovine prion protein gene (TgSB3985)

  4. Terry S. Singeltary Sr. Avatar

    The present study was designed to assess the susceptibility of the prototypic mouse line, Tg(CerPrP)1536+/- to bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) prions, which have the ability to overcome species barriers. Tg(CerPrP)1536+/- mice challenged with red deer-adapted BSE resulted in a 90-100% attack rates, BSE from cattle failed to transmit, indicating agent adaptation in the deer.

    1. Terry S. Singeltary Sr. Avatar

      —– Original Message —–

      From: David Colby To:

      Cc: stanley@XXXXXXXX

      Sent: Tuesday, March 01, 2011 8:25 AM

      Subject: Re: FW: re-Prions David W. Colby1,* and Stanley B. Prusiner1,2 + Author Affiliations

      Dear Terry Singeltary,

      Thank you for your correspondence regarding the review article Stanley Prusiner and I recently wrote for Cold Spring Harbor Perspectives. Dr. Prusiner asked that I reply to your message due to his busy schedule. We agree that the transmission of CWD prions to beef livestock would be a troubling development and assessing that risk is important. In our article, we cite a peer-reviewed publication reporting confirmed cases of laboratory transmission based on stringent criteria. The less stringent criteria for transmission described in the abstract you refer to lead to the discrepancy between your numbers and ours and thus the interpretation of the transmission rate. We stand by our assessment of the literature–namely that the transmission rate of CWD to bovines appears relatively low, but we recognize that even a low transmission rate could have important implications for public health and we thank you for bringing attention to this matter. Warm Regards, David Colby — David Colby, PhDAssistant Professor Department of Chemical Engineering University of Delaware



      UPDATED DATA ON 2ND CWD STRAIN Wednesday, September 08, 2010 CWD PRION CONGRESS SEPTEMBER 8-11 2010

      Sunday, August 19, 2012

      Susceptibility of cattle to the agent of chronic wasting disease from elk after intracranial inoculation 2012


      1. Terry S. Singeltary Sr. Avatar

        Thursday, July 03, 2014

        How Chronic Wasting Disease is affecting deer population and what’s the risk to humans and pets?

  5. Terry S. Singeltary Sr. Avatar


    in short, there is none, and never has been.

    I am concerned with pets as well.

    I strongly, strenuously, urge the FDA et al and scientist (minus the industry, politicians, and lobbyist there from on all issues), to revisit the foolish voluntary ban on ruminant feed to cervids, and adopt an immediate measure to make mandatory the ban of all ruminant feed to all cervids and pets. … TSS

    price of prion poker goes up again with this study. I strongly urge the United States FDA et al to revisit their failed ruminant mad cow feed ban, where still to this day, the feed ban does NOT include cervids. …

    Saturday, January 31, 2015

    European red deer (Cervus elaphus elaphus) are susceptible to Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy BSE by Oral Alimentary route

    Susceptibility of European Red Deer (Cervus elaphus elaphus) to Alimentary Challenge with Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy


    see much more here, with recent breaches in the mad cow feed ban, …tonnage of banned suspect mad cow feed in commerce…tss

    Terry S. Singeltary Sr.

  6. Brett Haverstick Avatar
    Brett Haverstick

    Safe to say Conant would have chosen the alternative to close the feedlot were it nor for political interference.

  7. Terry S. Singeltary Sr. Avatar

    Thursday, December 03, 2015

    The Forest Service Approves Continued Use of Alkali Creek Elk Feedground, and risks introducing CWD TSE Prion


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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