Stop Fatal Disease From Decimating Elk Populations


Target: Aurelia Skipwith, Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Goal: Stop the spread of fatal chronic wasting disease into the Jackson Hole National Elk Refuge by phasing out winter feedlines.

A fatal disease has spread among elk populations in Montana residing in close proximity to the Jackson Hole National Elk Refuge. Scientists, conservationists, hunters and wildlife officials fear the disease will spread into the refuge where it can decimate elk and contaminate the environment.

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is an infectious and contagious illness that impacts elk, deer, and other ungulates. It destroys the brain and central nervous system and causes brain lesions, behavioral changes, loss of body condition and always death. The disease also contaminates soils and vegetation where disease material can persist and infect animals far into the future. While the origin is unknown and no vaccines exist, scientists and wildlife officials have found the disease can be rapidly spread along winter feedlines. Feed programs were established in the early 1900’s as a way of sustaining elk through the winter. Dense concentrations of elk congregate along these feedlines and consume alfalfa pellets provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS).

Artificial feed systems are widely condemned by veterinary epidemiologists and wildlife management organizations. Due to the correlation between winter feeding programs and the spread of disease, FWS established a “Step-Down Plan” that proposes delaying the onset of winter feeding to teach elk to look elsewhere for food. However, this plan has been delayed for more than ten years due to disagreements among officials.

On February 3rd, EarthJustice, The Sierra Club, and other organizations filed a lawsuit against FWS, challenging their inability to fully implement the Step-Down Program. They feel there has been an inadequate response to chronic wasting disease and the inevitability of its spread into the refuge. The Jackson Hole National Elk Refuge is a vital ecological habitat that supports rich populations of elk and deer. Sign below to demand the FWS implement the Step-Down Program immediately to protect elk and their refuge from the rapid spread of chronic wasting disease.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Ms. Skipwith,

Elk are a species critical to the balance and health of our ecosystems. In addition, they are a species of great cultural importance across the United States.

The spread of chronic wasting disease into the Jackson Hole National Elk Refuge via feedlines will be fatal to elk and to the habitat. The connection is clear between winter feeding and the spread of the disease. Therefore, we cannot afford the continued delay of the Step-Down Program. In accordance with the work of Earthjustice and other organizations taking action to save the elk, I demand that you implement the Step-Down Program immediately in order to prevent the spread of chronic wasting disease into the crucial National Elk Refuge.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Carol M. Highsmith

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