Wolves cause feedground problems
G&F seriously concerned about the safety of their employees and the public
by Wyoming Game & Fish Department
March 6, 2007
Wolves have been disrupting the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s feedground operations in northwest Wyoming again this winter. In the past several weeks, Game and Fish personnel at feedgrounds have become increasingly frustrated with the wolf activity and their lack of ability to deal with the predators.
On Feb. 22, a feeder’s dog was killed by a wolf at the Patrol Cabin feedground in the Gros Ventre area. On another occasion, draft horses at the Alkali feedground facilities panicked when wolves were present. The panicked horses broke through a corral. Draft horses spooked by wolf activity at the Fish Creek feedground were very difficult to handle and in their excitement caused damage to feeding equipment. According to the Game and Fish’s Jackson Region Wildlife Supervisor Bernie Holz, all of this has created dangerous working conditions for the department’s elk feeders and draft horses.
Wolves have also been moving hundreds of elk from one feedground to another in the Gros Ventre, causing logistical problems for Game and Fish personnel trying to supply adequate feed to sustain the elk through the winter.
Sporadic wolf activity has been occurring at other feedgrounds throughout the area, and a number of wolf-killed elk have been documented on or near feedgrounds. Game and Fish personnel who noticed wolf tracks near the Muddy Creek feedground suspect that wolf activity there made the elk nervous and may have contributed to difficulties in trapping elk during the state’s test-and-removal program in February.
Last year, wolves caused similar problems at the state’s feedgrounds, in some cases running elk onto private land and increasing the potential for commingling with livestock and transmission of brucellosis from elk to cattle. At one point wolves chased elk from the Black Butte feedground onto a highway, causing a public safety hazard.
"This wolf activity has been causing some real headaches and dangerous situations for our personnel, and we’re fortunate that it has not led to more serious consequences yet," said Terry Cleveland, Game and Fish director.
"In some cases, we have had to make major modifications to our feeding routines. But, unfortunately, we have very few tools available to deal with wolves, and we’re seriously concerned about the safety of our employees and the public, as well as the risk of these elk transmitting brucellosis to cattle at nearby ranches," said Cleveland.
Feedgrounds were established in Wyoming in the early part of the 20th century to help combat habitat loss, prevent starvation and reduce damage to haystacks on private land. Today, feedgrounds also help keep brucellosis-infected elk from commingling with cattle. Brucellosis outbreaks in cattle in 2004 caused Wyoming to lose its brucellosis-free status, and the source of infection was determined to be elk-cattle commingling. Wyoming regained its brucellosis-free status in 2006.