Volume 4, Number 49 - March 3, 2005
brought to you online by Pinedale Online
Brucellosis plan under development
The Wyoming Game and Fish Department is nearing completion of its Pinedale elk herd Brucellosis Management Action Plan. The final draft is being circulated among affected livestock producers and other stakeholders, with finalization expected within the next few weeks.
The plan focuses on the Pinedale elk herd, which includes elk within the area from Fremont Lake and Pine Creek to the Big Sandy River and encompasses the Fall Creek, Scab Creek and Muddy Creek elk feedgrounds.
The plan acknowledges that livestock producers with cow/calf operations adjacent to elk feedgrounds may be at highest risk for brucellosis transmission from elk.
"Additionally, cow/calf producers in the vicinity of elk feedgrounds and in areas of high elk use, or where damage/commingling has occurred in the past, have the potential for a transmission event," the plan noted.
The plan identifies ranches considered "at risk" due to their close proximity to the elk feedgrounds.
The Fayette Ranch, owned by Main Pass LLC, is located adjacent to the Fall Creek feedground. Little commingling has occurred in the past and although this operation is located within a high-risk area, there is little risk of interspecific brucellosis transmission if the ranch continues to maintain its existing management practices.
John Blatt's Teton Diablo Ranch is adjacent to the Scab Creek feedground. The BMAP notes that since Blatt purchased the ranch, he's changed to organic beef production and does not typically feed cattle on the ranch during the winter. This change has reduced potential conflicts and dis ease transmission events associated with Scab Creek elk, the plan noted. WG&F encourages the ranch to continue its existing management practices to maintain a low risk of disease transmission.
Ranches in the vicinity of the Muddy Creek feedground are more problematic, according to the BMAP. Doc Jensen and his family have agreed to alter their cattle management by not allowing cow/calf pairs to drift close to the feedground.
The BMAP notes that James Baker III owns a ranch on Silver Creek, but does not graze cattle and allows only limited hunting access, providing a refuge for elk. The result is that elk stay on the property until snow conditions push them to lower elevations, including several other private ranches, where elk get into commingling and damage situations. Each year, these elk are hazed to the Muddy Creek feedground. WG&F has agreed to encourage Baker to allow hunting on his property in order to reduce this conflict.
The BMAP encourages all cattle producers in the vicinity of the Muddy Creek feedground to maintain hay stackyards and erect additional stackyards if needed. The plan notes Frosty Hittle and Suzy Michnevich have agreed to erect stackyards on their ranch.
Another problem area identified in the BMAP is a commingling situation occurring in late May and early June on private land belonging to the Richies. With few other pasture options available for the ranch, the BMAP considers this a high-risk area in need of work to prevent an interspecific transmission event.
The plan states that there is some overlap between cattle grazing and elk parturition range, but only about 70 acres of the East Fork Common Allotment and some overlap occurs in the Irish Canyon and Sandy Upper Muddy Individual allotments as well.
The BMAP states that WG&F "should investigate the potential of moving the Muddy Creek feedground south and west into a larger area more conducive for spatial distribution of elk, in a lower precipitation zone and further in distance from winter cattle operations."
WG&F should also investigate the potential for erecting a long drift fence near the national forest boundary to reduce conflicts between elk and cattle operations.
Eight options for feedground management were examined in the BMAP. Relocation of Muddy Creek has potential, but eliminating any of the three feedgrounds is unfeasible, according to the BMAP. Cattle producers could change their operations to reduce potential for disease transmission, as would additional fencing options. The plan also discusses an elk test and removal or spay program to reduce the percentage of seropositive animals on elk feedgrounds.
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