The people of Wyoming are no strangers to the outdoors. We’re hunters and ranchers, campers and hikers, and for many of us, our spectacular wildlands and abundant wildlife have brought joy and meaning to our lives. Now Wyoming wildlife is in danger and it is up to us to protect it.
The risk of a chronic wasting disease (CWD) epidemic is upon us. In the last 20 years, the disease has infiltrated deer herds in 22 of Wyoming’s 23 counties. If we want to prevent dramatic and permanent changes to entire ecosystems in our national parks, forests, and other public lands, and keep our outdoor economy alive, we have to address CWD— and that means better management of our game herds now.
This starts with phasing out high-risk and unnecessary feedlots in the western part of our state, where thousands of elk are crammed together each winter. The feedlots concentrate wild animals to unnatural levels and dramatically increase the risk of elk contracting and spreading CWD at an accelerated rate.
And let’s not forget that large carnivores like grizzly bears, wolves, and mountain lions will help too, by culling sick animals and helping keep herds healthier.
CWD has already reached Grand Teton National Park and is on the doorstep of Yellowstone. We must act now to start phasing out elk feedlots and valuing large carnivores — Wyoming wildlife depends on it.
Martha Martinez del Rio