Do not feed the wildlife.
Sounds simple, but the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) has ignored its own advice and fed elk for decades. Winter feeding threatens healthy wild elk herds in Wyoming and surrounding states. The unnatural congregation of elk on winter feedlots makes them more vulnerable to chronic wasting disease (CWD) — a disease with a 100% fatality rate — brucellosis, hoof rot, and other infectious diseases.
Surrounding intermountain states, including Montana, Idaho, Colorado, and Utah have an abundance of elk. They are similar in climate and terrain to Wyoming, yet winter elk feeding is virtually non-existent in those states. Colorado has twice as many elk as Wyoming, and they successfully manage conflicts with livestock operations without relying on winter elk feeding. Idaho stopped feeding elk because of the increased risk of infectious diseases from elk feedlots. Utah characterizes winter feeding as costly and harmful, causing behavioral changes, range destruction, and increased disease problems. In 2017, Montana’s Fish & Wildlife Commission formally requested that Wyoming stop feeding elk, recognizing that their ability to slow the spread of CWD will hinge on whether or not Wyoming closes its winter feedlots.
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Wyoming’s practice of feeding elk has consequences that extend far beyond our state’s borders. Continuing to feed elk will hasten the spread of infectious wildlife diseases with deadly consequences for elk and mule deer populations. Other states have proven that elk can survive and thrive without winter feeding. It is time for the WGFD to phase out winter elk feedlots.