From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 5, Number 48 - February 23, 2006
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

More elk trapped, tested

by Cat Urbigkit

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department captured 131 elk at the Muddy Creek Elk Feedground last Thursday, including 40 adult cow elk from which blood samples were drawn to test for brucellosis, according to Wyoming Game and Fish Department Brucellosis Information Specialist Chris Colligan. Fourteen of the 16 elk that tested positive for the disease were transported to a slaughter facility in Rigby, Idaho, on Friday. Two other elk that tested positive for brucellosis were inadvertently released back onto the feedground, but are still wearing numbered collars allowing for identification should the agency decided to remove these animals from the feedground population.

Thursday’s effort was part of a new brucellosis test-and-slaughter pilot project aimed at reducing the rate of infection in the Pinedale elk herd. Brucellosis is a contagious bacterial disease that causes abortion in hoofed animals. Since the bacterium infects the reproductive tract, the testing program focuses only on breeding-aged female animals.

The winter snowstorm that hit Wyoming earlier in the week prevented WG&F personnel from getting into the trap site on Wednesday. The National Weather Service reported that the winter storm dropped at least seven inches of snow at the nearby Big Sandy Opening in just over 24 hours.

In late January, state officials captured about 240 elk in the Muddy Creek trap. A total of 42 cow elk tested positive for brucellosis and all but one of the animals were sent to a slaughter facility in eastern Idaho. One elk was euthanized on site due to capture stress.

The test-and-slaughter program is subject of some controversy, with environmental groups filing a lawsuit in federal court earlier this week in attempt to halt the program. The Wyoming Outdoor Council, Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance and the Greater Yellowstone Coalition are represented by Earthjustice in the lawsuit that challenges the U.S. Forest Service’s authorization of the facilities being used for the Muddy Creek feedground’s pilot test-and-slaughter program, which include a complex of pens and chutes.

“This test and slaughter program is a brutal management tool,” said Franz Camenzind of the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance in a press release announcing the lawsuit. “We are unnecessarily killing elk when the brucellosis infection rate could be lowered by phasing out the feedgrounds and letting elk disperse throughout the landscape naturally.”

The Muddy Creek feedground was chosen for the pilot project because elk from this feedground transmitted brucellosis to a nearby cattleherd in late 2003. The entire cattle herd was sent to slaughter, but the brucellosis outbreak in western Wyoming cattle resulted in Wyoming losing its coveted brucellosis-free market status and the implementation of a vigorous cattle-testing program.

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