Jackson Hole News: WY Elk numbers way above objectives

Elk in Wyoming are doing well, even when you look at individual herds-

The Jackson Hole News and Guide April 28 reported their analysis of the 2010 Big Game Management Summary of Wyoming Game and Fish. This article is not on-line, so I will summarize.

The annual census reported almost 103,000 elk in the 27 herds counted this winter. The state’s overall objective for these herds is about 76,000. The post-hunt count early in 2009 was about 1000 less and back in 2008 it was only 93,000 elk.

Some folks complain that elk might be numerous overall, but they are way down where I outfit, hunt, or whatever. The News reports, however, that 20 of the 27 herds were above objectives. Seven were at objective. None were below. There was incomplete data for 8 (so not included in the 27 herds).

Hunters in WY killed 22,839 elk in 2009 compared to 20,866 in 2008. The time for the average hunter to kill an elk declined in 2009 to 17.6 recreation days compared to 18.9 in 2008. Note that this calculation also includes those who hunted but were not successful.

The Jackson Hole elk herd count was 11,693, 6% above objectives. The objective is 11,000. The cow/elk calf ratio was 24, down from the 10-year average of 25.  The ratio was suspected to be lower in the Teton Wilderness and southern Yellowstone Park. It was not calculated.

The Targhee herd was not surveyed. The Fall Creek herd, to the south of Jackson was 16% over objective. More tags for that herd will be issued this year.

Folks should remember that the state’s elk objectives, including local objectives are set under strong pressure from the powerful livestock industry.  They usually don’t like to see “important animals” like cattle and sheep having to compete much with elk for grass.

Feces on elk feedgrounds could spread wasting disease. Officials call for phaseout of feeding elk herds

They read the article in Nature we posted last week!

Feces on feedgrounds could spread wasting disease. Officials call for phaseout of feeding elk herds. By Cory Hatch. Jackson Hole News and Guide.

At least we heard from some groups and officials about the direct implications of the study in Nature, but what about this quote from Wyoming Game and Fish, Kreeger* continued. ‘If this is the primary way that this disease is spread, nothing comes to my mind what we could do.’ ”

And maybe we could ask Bob Wharff of SFW Wyoming about this finding. Bob, do you want to comment, and in Idaho does elk ranch lobbyist Stan Boyd have anything to say?
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*
Terry Kreeger is supervisor of the Veterinary Services Branch of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department!

Wyoming hasn’t fed elk at Gros Ventre feedlots, plus herd’s calf/cow ratios improve from last year’s worrisome levels.

Good news. Lack of feeding has kept wolves from keying on the feedlots-
In general not feeding is good regardless of wolves-

It is good news when elk don’t have to be, or simply are not fed.

Mike Jimenez, wolf coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said recently that wolves appear to not be concentrating on the Gros Ventre herds because the elk are not bunched on feedgrounds.

Louise Lasley, public lands director for the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance, praised the decision to keep feedgrounds closed, but said wildlife managers should use the option more often.

“Wyoming Game and Fish Department showed a willingness and ability to discard entrenched practices and showed that not feeding elk is a viable option for winter management,” she said.

Staffers with the Greater Yellowstone Coalition have been taking measurements and finding levels “are comparable to levels in studies from prior years,” she said.

“To argue that conditions this winter facilitated not feeding would be erroneous,” she said.

Rest of the story. State hasn’t fed elk at Gros Ventre feedlots. By Cory Hatch. Jackson Hole News and Guide.

Wyoming Game and Fish Slaughters Elk

Captures occurring at multiple sites.

192 elk were captured on Tuesday at the Fall Creek feedground of which 122 were females and 6 of those tested positive for exposure to brucellosis. Another 150 were captured Wednesday at the Muddy Creek feedground of which 60 were females.

State sends six elk to slaughter
By CAT URBIGKIT
Casper Star Tribune.

Jackson Hole Daily | Elk tests, kills to start

Wyoming Game and Fish continues fourth year of elk test and slaughter program.

Jackson Hole Daily | Elk tests, kills to start

The article points out that $815,000 has been spent and that seroprevalence has declined. This reduction may or may not be associated with past test and slaughter efforts and will likely be for naught if Wyoming persists with its feeding of elk during the winter which concentrates them and makes transmission more likely.

As pointed out by Franz Camenzind, executive director of the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance, this does not address the likely impending chronic wasting disease outbreak.

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Robert Hoskins wrote to me saying WY Game and Fish does not use an experimental design for this program. Therefore, you can’t conclude it is working.

This is a general problem in politically based studies of policy. Experimental or semi (quasi) experimental designs are rarely used. An experimental design includes one or more groups that get “the treatment” and a similar group or groups which is the “control” group, meaning no treatment. If both groups increase or decrease by about the same amount, the treatment has had no effect. Some other (some outside) factor was responsible. Regarding this program, we have no idea. Ralph Maughan

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On the the new wolf delisting scheme

Wyoming is the biggest thorn in the delisters side-

As folks pretty much all know, the Bush Administration, mostly likely at the initiative of Secretary Kempthone and cronies, is trying for one last quick stab at delisting the wolf before a new President replaces them.

If folks work hard, they will probably be defeated again; but their era of extremism and backward thinking may not end quite quick enough, so this delisting thing has to get your attention.

Here is the notice from the Federal Register indicating how to send in your comments beginning now. They are all due by Nov. 28.

Notice of reopening of comments on delisting. Federal Register. Don’t be deterred by having to go to regulations.gov to submit your comments.

They claim that if wolf population genetics deteriorates (a major objection from Federal Judge Molloy who shot down their delsiting), now they will shuttle wolves around to Wyoming to improve the genetics.

The have an unsigned MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) on this. Draft MOU. (note that Jeff commented and posted this earlier in a comment).

Because Wyoming needs to make changes, their Department of Game and Fish is trying to engage in some emergency state rulemaking. They just issued this news release.

Game and Fish Releases Draft Revised Wolf Plan for Public Comment. Wyoming Dept. of Game and Fish.

Their emergency rules. Wyoming Dept. of Game and Fish. Hearings are scheduled and soon. This is rush job.

My impression of the emergency rules is that they are not much of a change because the Department can do little without a change in Wyoming’s wolf hostile statute on wolf management. Their state legislature doesn’t meet until January, which would be best time to make Wyoming’s wolf plan acceptable, but the presidential election dictates action now.

Little doubt what Kempthorne wants is to decouple Idaho and Montana, where they manage wolves “so well” from Wyoming — just delist 2 states and let Wyoming wolves limp along indefinitely, maybe with what amounts to a “put and take” translocation of fresh wolves whenever the state kills too many. Kempthorne proposed this to the Secretary of Interior when he was governor of Idaho. Now as the Secretary, this is his last shot.

Do be fooled, however. Idaho has a bad wolf plan and Montana, which had earned some applause,  has been killing wolves this year with a vengeance despite incredibly minor depredations.

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Brief AP news story. Wyoming proposes changes in its wolf plan. By Bob Moen.

Wyoming’s Game and Fish chief doesn’t agree with the state vets on brucellosis