From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 2, Number 12 - June 20, 2002
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Dead elk pile removed

by Cat Urbigkit

The pile of dead elk at a Wyoming Game and Fish Department elk feedground in the Gros Ventre was cleaned up prior to the WG&F Commission meeting June 6 and 7 in Saratoga, WG&F Director Tom Thorne said in an interview Tuesday.

It became known in late April that a pile of wolf-killed elk had been placed near WG&F buildings and where humans have access at the feedground. The feedground is located within the official grizzly bear recovery zone and surrounded by a portion of the Bridger-Teton National Forest that has a food-storage order in effect.

WG&F Regional Wildlife Supervisor Bernie Holz said at the time that the pile was the result of wolf kills and that to aide federal officials, the carcasses had been placed in one area for inspection later. Holz also said at that time that the pile of carcasses would be buried.

But when Riverton rancher Dan Ingalls passed through the area again in early June, he took photographs showing that the carcasses had been scattered and that WG&F had not been keeping a clean camp. Ingalls said it appeared that bears had been into the carcasses, as evidenced by the chewed food wrappers, tin cans and both burned and unburned garbage, and the garbage barrels themselves had been bent.

WG&F Commissioner Doyle Dorner told the Examiner that the dead elk could be a bear attractant.

"We should lead by example," Dorner said. "This is probably one of the cases in which we haven't ... and there's evidence to show that we haven't."

But on Tuesday, Thorne said he issued a directive prior to the WG&F Commission meeting that the carcasses be cleaned up. The carcasses were placed in a secured building for incineration later, Thorne said.

"It's pretty much resolved," Thorne said. He said the issue was discussed at the WG&F Commission meeting, with commissioners expressing their concerns about having the situation not be repeated and that the agency should be setting a good example for others to follow.

Thorne said he told the commissioners that "this won't happen again in the future."

Thorne said although the state is about to embark on preparation of a wolf management plan, which should be completed in February, elk will be back on the feedgrounds before the process is completed, so WG&F will have to develop an interim plan for dealing with wolves on the feedgrounds. That plan will address what to do with carcasses, but Thorne added it won't include gathering up the carcasses and placing them in a central location.

Meanwhile, the effect of the dead elk situation has drawn the attention of the nearby grazing permittee.

Bridger-Teton National Forest grazing permittee Michael Scott Stanko wrote a letter to Thorne and the WG&F Commissioners expressing his concern about the situation, adding, "This action can only be classified as negligence or a malicious action.

Stanko wrote: "There is the theory that certain employees for the state want cattle grazing stopped at all costs, and that is why the dead elk were placed in the middle of our cattle allotment for bear bait."

Stanko continued, "We expect the bears to be in full force on our allotment because of the Goosewing bear bait scene. We want to be friendly neighbors, but it is obvious that there are employees working for the state that are adversaries to cattle grazing."

The Stanko letter puts the agency on notice that WG&F "will be held liable and accountable for all livestock losses confirmed or unconfirmed by its personnel, because we will also have these animals confirmed by an independent government agency, veterinarian or other experienced person."

Thorne said his agency wants to get along well with the new permittee and "we will do the best we can to get along and accommodate him."

In response to concerns raised by Stanko and other permittees, WG&F has changed some of its bear research and trapping plans, Thorne said.

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