Should the winter get too harsh for elk to find forage on their own, they can continue to use up to five acres at the Alkali Creek Feedground in the Bridger-Teton National Forest in Wyoming. The recently issued permit is for emergencies only and will apply for the 2019 to 2024 feeding seasons with the caveat that the Forest Service hopes to completely eliminate this feedground before the 2024 winter season, the Post Register reports.
With interruptions to migration routes and “the direct loss of winter range” due to “rural development and fencing,” the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) uses supplemental feeding to keep elk off of private land where they often damage stored crops and mix with livestock. The permit will allow the WGFD to feed elk in one elk tagging corral, one horse corral, one tack shed, one haystack yard that has two haysheds and one water facility, according to the Post Register. This isn’t the only feedground along the Gros Ventre River; the Patrol Cabin and Fish Creek feedgrounds are larger and located further along the Gros Ventre River drainage.
The reason behind eliminating elk feeding at Alkali Creek is to keep elk from unnaturally congregating there because chronic wasting disease was recently discovered in that area. With 22 feedgrounds in Wyoming, it’s important to monitor where the disease is present in order to halt –or contain—its spread. While the Forest Service had intended to stop feeding at the 91-acre Alkali Creek Feedground over a 10-year period, that decision was changed following a court challenge by the Wyoming Wildlife Advocates who argued that “the planned phase-out” was “too slow,” according to the Post Register.
“It is not business as usual,” Mary Moore, Jackson District Ranger said in a news release. “Emergency feeding is carefully defined as 1) feeding only if significant elk damage or an elk/livestock co-mingling situation develops on nearby private land, 2) or if it is necessary to catch or stop a large number of elk (200 or more) from moving down drainage from Patrol Cabin or Fish Creek elk feedgrounds, 3) and if I concur that one of these emergency situations exists.”
“When I approve an initiation of emergency feeding, I will also be specifying when emergency feeding must cease on the feedground,” added Moore.