Montana Wildlife Officials Ask Wyoming to Stop Feeding Elk

By: David Williss

Montana wildlife officials are asking their Wyoming counterparts to stop feeding elk following the arrival of chronic wasting disease in the states.

The Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission sent a letter last week to the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission, saying its elk feeding practices could accelerate the spread of the fatal, contagious disease, the Jackson Hole News and Guide reported .

In the Montana letter, officials said they respect how Wyoming handles its affairs, but management of chronic wasting disease in Montana is affected by what happens in the neighboring state.

“As a commission, we believe that we cannot successfully address CWD without Wyoming’s help. As your neighbor, we ask you to begin the process of closing these feedgrounds,” the Montana commissioners wrote.

Wyoming maintains 22 feedgrounds, which Montana officials said could be an incubator of the disease because elk become concentrated at these sites.

The letter is not a demand, but a request for the state to consider phasing out the feedgrounds, said Dan Vermillion, the chairman of the Montana commission.

“It’s a big sacrifice for the people of Montana to make,” Vermillion said. “If those feedgrounds are still out there, that will counteract any progress we make potentially down the road.”

Wyoming Game and Fish commissioner Mike Schmid said he had not seen the letter as of Wednesday.

“Wyoming’s been feeding elk for many years, and in a lot of ways it’s been beneficial to the state,” Schmid said. “I think there’s got to be a lot more discussion before I could say one way or the other if there’s a potential for reducing feeding of the elk.”