elk

Jimbo Stevenson

Bull elk keep their antlers for a significantly longer time than moose or deer, and new research shows that might be to help protect them from predators. 

Wildfires in the West can destroy homes and create a lot of really nasty smoke. But a new study from the University of Montana says it also helps grow some really great food for elk.

Sybille Research and Visitor Center

A U.S. district court has decided to end a long-term permit for an elk feeding ground in the Bridger Teton National Forest in northwest Wyoming, saying the agency did not do enough to analyze the risk of chronic wasting disease to animals there.

Alpha male (712) of the Canyon pack in the Lower Geyser Basin
Jim Peaco / Yellowstone National Park

Aspen trees are making a comeback in Yellowstone National Park, and according to a new study out of Oregon State University, that’s thanks to wolves. 

GREYS RIVER WILDLIFE HABITAT MANAGEMENT AREA

A new study by the University of Wyoming suggests elk feedgrounds actually do more harm than good. By ending the practice, it could help slow down a deadly disease.

Mark Elbroch

Wildlife management policies have contributed to a steep decline of mountain lions in northwest Wyoming, according to a new report published last week in the journal “Ecology and Evolution,” which found that population numbers have dropped by almost 50-percent in only 16 years.

NOAA

In the last three days, two people have been seriously injured by an elk. There have been three reported wildlife encounters in Yellowstone National Park this year.

Elk hunting map divided into each area
Wyoming Game and Fish Department

After 30 years, the way elk hunting licenses are handled for residents and non-residents may change. The Wyoming Game and Fish Department held eight different public meetings around the state last week to determine what could be modified.

US Fish and Wildlife Service

Very few of the elk that winter every year on the National Elk Refuge outside Jackson are making their traditional long migration all the way to Yellowstone National Park for generations, and wildlife biologists are worried they’ll eventually forget the route altogether.

Cattle Drive Near Pinedale, WY
Theo Stein / USFWS

Conservation groups want a fresh take on management of a contagious disease occurring in the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem called brucellosis, which affects elk, bison and livestock. It can kill fetuses, decrease fertility and hurt milk production, and many consider it an economic threat, too.

Statewide Chronic Wasting Disease Distribution in Wyoming
Wyoming Game and Fish Department

A case of chronic wasting disease, or CWD, was found in a deer outside Meeteetse. The white-tailed buck was legally harvested by a hunter southwest of the town, and was later sampled by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. Testing confirmed the buck positive for CWD.

Several groups are working on a project aimed at representing the cultural importance of elk to the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone tribes.

Elk
Wikimedia Commons

Four conservation groups filed a lawsuit to challenge a Jackson Elk feeding ground. The area is at Alkali Creek in the Bridger-Teton National Forest.

The Wyoming Game and Fish manages feeding grounds as a strategy to bait and concentrate animals for an extended period of time. The goal is to protect the vulnerable animals from harsh conditions and predators.  

The U.S. Forest Service permitted this particular feeding ground for the Jackson Elk. But Sierra Club’s Lloyd Dorsey said these feeding grounds aren’t protection at all. 

Melodie Edwards

Wyoming may be in the middle of an energy bust, but there’s one industry that’s quietly booming: the shed antler business. More and more people are discovering how lucrative picking up deer and elk antlers can be. But that’s led to more out of season poaching of antlers and even serious accidents. Hundreds of people lined up for the season’s opening day May 1 and Wyoming Public Radio’s Melodie Edwards was there.

Melodie Edwards / Wyoming Public Radio

The shed antler collecting season opened in the Jackson area on Monday at midnight with fewer cars in line at the forest boundary gate than last year, only about 180 compared to 250 the year before when the opening date fell on the weekend.

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department has started issuing fines up to $1000 and stepping up enforcement to stop antler poaching on big game winter ranges where people aren’t allowed to enter from January through April.

CC0 Public Domain, Pixabay

Last week, a Washington D.C. resident was fined by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for using his drone to fly over a large herd of elk in hopes of getting up-close photographs. The drone caused the herd to bolt and run about a half mile on the National Elk Refuge near Jackson.

Elk Refuge spokeswoman Lori Iverson said with so much snow this winter, it’s already been a hard year for wildlife and the drone caused the elk extra stress. Iverson said it’s important for drone operators to educate themselves on the policies of any agency where they plan to fly.

Wikimedia Commons

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department will begin collaring elk in the Bighorn Mountains as part of a study on brucellosis, a disease found primarily in elk and bison that can spread to livestock and result in animals aborting their young.

Collecting antlers is not allowed west of the Continental Divide between January and April, but South Pinedale Game Warden Jordan Kraft says that doesn’t stop people. He says the growing popularity of antler collecting is disturbing wildlife, just when the animals need to gain weight in the winter.

More and more people are making money by collecting antlers dropped by mule deer and elk and selling them for $14 to $18 a pound. The antlers are made into furniture, or ground into medicinal teas to sell on Asian markets. 

Elk
Wikimedia Commons

Seven dead elk were found in the Great Divide Basin of the Red Desert last week. The Wyoming Game and Fish Department in Green River suspect the deaths were a result of the elk ingesting toxic lichen.

Wyoming Game and Fish Wildlife Supervisor Steve DeCecco said this is not the first time elk have died from lichen toxicosis in Wyoming. During the winters of 2004 and 2008, more than 500 elk died in the Red Rim area south of Rawlins from eating the stuff. DeCecco said the lichen itself doesn’t kill the elk.

Recently, new GPS technology has allowed wildlife biologists to learn much more about migration routes for big game like mule deer and pronghorn. Wyoming Game and Fish Department Deputy Chief of Wildlife Scott Smith says they aren’t just roads where animals move along quickly. Instead, they’re habitats where animals spend a lot of time each year.

That’s why, last week, the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission decided it was time to adopt updated policies to protect those routes.

Greys River Wildlife Habitat Management Area

Chronic wasting disease spread through herds of elk and deer at a higher than usual this year. Normally, it’s found in less than five new hunting areas around the state but this year it turned up in seven new areas.

But Wyoming Game and Fish Deputy Chief of Wildlife Scott Edberg says only one of those new areas was not right next door to an area where the disease had been found in the past, and that was on the South Fork of the Shoshone River.

FMC Corporation

Scientists discussed new discoveries about big game migrations this week at a conference at the University of Wyoming. The forum—called “Sustaining Big Game Migrations in the West”-- brought together experts to discuss how to protect migration routes without hurting the state’s economy.

Wyoming Migration Initiative Director Matt Kauffman says such a forum is important right now because new science shows migrating animals are easily affected by development.

Bureau of Land Management, Wikimedia Commons

With mule deer numbers plummeting all over the West, a new research project in Rock Springs is looking at why elk populations continue to thrive. 

In cooperation with the University of Wyoming and the Wyoming Game and Fish, the Muley Fanatic Foundation plans to put tracking collars on 35 elk and 50 mule deer to compare the diet, predators, disease and other factors of the two species. Muley Fanatic Co-Founder Joshua Coursey, says one reason the two species may be faring so differently is their diets.

Chris Servheen

Elk and other wildlife are beginning their spring migrations. Moving to summer ranges can mean crossing roads and highways, which puts wildlife at risk of being struck and killed by vehicles. But research shows that properly designed wildlife crossings can make roads safer for wildlife and for people. 

Tony Clevenger has been studying wildlife crossings in the Canadian Rockies for more than 17 years, and he says the data is clear about when building crossings is cost effective.

The Jackson elk herd is not wintering in locations that the Wyoming Game and Fish Department say can support such high numbers. While the overall population of 11,000 is healthy, several locations have more elk than they can support.

The National Elk Refuge and the Snake River Corridor areas are both bursting at the seams with elk this winter. Game and Fish Spokesman Mark Gocke says two issues are to blame animals are migrating down from better range to the north and they have unusually high birth rates this year. He says hunting could help the problem.

Elk
Wikimedia Commons

The National Elk Refuge in Jackson has completed their annual classification count. For the second year in a row more than 8,000 wintering elk were counted, well over the refuge’s 5,000 elk goal.

That goal comes from the refuge’s 15 year management plan which began in 2007. The plan outlines sustainable elk and bison populations for habitat conservation and disease management in the Jackson area. The refuge has been trying to reduce the animal’s reliance on winter feeding at the refuge.

A Wyoming hunter now holds the world record for the largest elk killed with a crossbow. Albert Henderson took the elk in the Shoshone National Forest during last fall’s crossbow season.

The elk scored 408 points on the Boone and Crockett scoring system. Wyoming Game and Fish spokesman Al Langston says it takes an exceptional hunter to make such a clean kill with a crossbow since it means getting very close to make a shot.

Kim Seng, Flickr Creative Commons

The senior wildlife biologist at Grand Teton National Park is retiring after 26 years on the job. During his tenure, Steve Cain worked with state and other wildlife managers to improve conditions for wildlife, not just in the park, but across the 22-million-acre Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Rebecca Huntington has more.
 

HUNTINGTON: When Steve Cain first came to Grand Teton in 1989, he was the only biologist, alongside a fisheries expert, overseeing the park's wildlife. The tools he had to work with were pretty limited.

Patricia Lavin

Scientists at the Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center are analyzing 250 tissue samples of elk, wild bison, and livestock in an effort to better understand how the disease brucellosis spreads.

Brucellosis sickens large mammals like elk and cattle, and can cause them to abort their young.  U.S. Geological Survey ecologist Pauline Kamath says a commonly held theory has been that Yellowstone’s wild animals have been infected with brucellosis by elk on Wyoming feed grounds. But her data shows that may not be as common as previously thought.

Penny Preston

Chronic Wasting Disease spread into seven new hunting areas around the state in 2014. The slow-spreading neurological disease affects deer, elk and moose and causes weight loss, abnormal behavior and, eventually, death. Game and Fish tested more than 1500 animals this year. 

Communications Director Renny MacKay says although the disease continues to move into almost every county in the state, the new areas were no surprise.

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