The Wyoming Game and Fish Department plans to continue supplemental winter feeding at Dell Creek
The Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) has announced that it plans to continue feeding elk in the winter at the Dell Creek Feedground in Northern Sublette County. A recent court decision found that the department's previous permit to winter feed elk, granted by the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), expired at the end of 2017 and there was no record of renewal, despite the department continuing to feed there in the years since. So, the WGFD applied for a new year-long special use permit from the USFS to continue feeding this winter.
"We are probably within about six weeks or so of needing to feed there, and so not having the ability to feed there is just untenable for us," said Rick King, chief of the Game and Fish wildlife division. "The need for using that feed ground this fall is critical and so we're hopeful that the Forest Service will be able to issue that one year permit for us."
Elk have used feedgrounds in northwest Wyoming since the early 1900s. Over the 2020-2021 winter, 529 elk visited the Dell Creek Feedground for supplemental feed. According to King, feedgrounds like Dell Creek help protect private property and contain the spread of brucellosis.
"That risk of transmission of brucellosis to livestock is very high there, and so having the ability to keep elk and cattle separated is critically important for reducing the spread of brucellosis to cattle," he said.
It also keeps elk at higher elevations and away from roads where they may be hit, said King.
But wildlife advocacy groups are especially concerned about the spread of diseases, specifically Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) between the gathered elk. King said they take precautions for that too.
"Of course we are very concerned about the spread of disease on the grounds and we have implemented best management practices to minimize the spread of disease on the feedgrounds, including trying to delay feeding as long as possible, and then getting elk off the ground as soon as possible in the spring," he said. "And in addition, we've practiced spreading feed out on the feedground so the elk aren't in close contact with each other while they're feeding."
If approved, the new permit will expire in a year. King said they're working on a longer-term plan for future feeding.