JACKSON, Wyo. -- Information gleaned from the Wyoming Game & Fish Department indicates that deadly Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is advancing towards western Wyoming's winter elk feedgrounds and Yellowstone National Park.
A new map from the Greater Yellowstone Coalition shows the areas where the disease has been detected in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem are within 45 miles of winter elk feedgrounds and about 40 miles from Yellowstone Park's northeast corner. The 2012 information reveals the farthest advance west of CWD in deer in Wyoming yet. Last year, three mule deer were found infected with CWD in Green River, Wyo.; an infected moose was found near Idaho in Star Valley, Wyo., in 2008.
Veteran conservationist Lloyd Dorsey of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition said the disease is now essentially on the doorstep of the elk feedgrounds, including the National Elk Refuge in Jackson Hole. Dorsey notes that deer from the endemic disease areas to the east and south migrate north and west to elk herd units in the upper Green River and Jackson Hole, where most of the winter feedgrounds are located.
Wildlife managers continue to play Russian roulette with our treasured game herds by baiting and feeding them unnecessarily, Dorsey said. "The steady advance of the disease should serve as a strong message to eliminate dense concentrations of elk by phasing out artificial winter feeding. We must break the cycle of disease ó before it harms some of America's great elk herds."
The disease also is moving inexorably closer to Yellowstone Park through the Big Horn Basin, where it is approximately 40 miles away from the park boundary. So far no elk have been detected with the disease in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks or the National Elk Refuge. According to agency accounts, hunter harvested elk and some that appear to be sick are tested for the disease.
The good news is that the disease has not been detected at the feedgrounds or national parks yet, said Bruce Smith, retired U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service biologist and former senior biologist at the National Elk Refuge. Managers can still act to responsibly phase out winter feeding of elk and limit the effects of this and other diseases.
CWD is a degenerative disease of the central nervous system and brain, and can infect elk, deer and moose. It is always fatal and there is no cure. The same disease can infect all these species and is transmissible from one species to another. Experts say that artificially concentrating herds by winter feeding increases the risk of such diseases, and recommend that deer and elk not be artificially fed or baited during winter in order to keep them spread out as much as possible.
For more information on the map depicting CWD areas and Greater Yellowstone Coalition's efforts to phase out the artificial elk feeding areas and transition to healthier, free ranging wildlife, see http://www.greateryellowstone.org/elkrefuge
For more information contact:
Lloyd Dorsey, Greater Yellowstone Coalition, 307 734 6004; Bruce Smith, PhD, USFWS (retired): 406 842 5995