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Elk congregate on the feed line during supplemental feeding on the National Elk Refuge, a practice that biologists say can spread illnesses such as chronic wasting disease.

Refuge ‘step-down’ plan

A detailed plan to scale back elk feeding on the National Elk Refuge is out for public review after more than two decades in the making.

Though nuanced and gradual, the goals are simple: Reduce elk numbers to a level at which feeding isn’t necessary in an ordinary winter. If enacted the plan would be a monumental change, considering the 107-year history of feeding on the refuge.

The centerpiece of the effort is to start feeding elk later than usual, though by just a few days, and then end the alfalfa handouts in the spring about one week earlier than the status quo.

Public comments are due to the National Elk Refuge by today. Email them to nationalelkrefuge@fws.gov.

Visit FWS.gov/refuge/national_elk_refuge to review documents.

Goat on the way out

Grand Teton National Park has given final approval to plans to rapidly remove mountain goats by lethal and nonlethal means.

The mountain goats are not native to the national park and threaten Wyoming’s most isolated native bighorn sheep herd, according to a park decision released last week.

Park officials pointed out some modifications to the agency’s original preferred alternative. Qualified volunteers will be used to assist in hunting on the ground, and mountain goat meat may be donated or distributed for consumption. In addition, the plan calls for the capture and relocation of mountain goats.

The Teton Range is home to about 100 native bighorn sheep, a tiny herd that has never been extirpated or augmented. But mountain goats that have migrated to the Tetons from the Snake River Range carry pathogens that can lead to deadly pneumonia, which could be transmitted to the bighorn sheep and risk wiping out the entire native herd. Mountain goats also compete with bighorn sheep for habitat.

Park officials estimate the non-native mountain goat population within the park at roughly 100 animals, a number that could keep expanding without active management, park officials warn. The plan will get underway this winter.

B-T plans to spray

Dozens of square miles of the Bridger-Teton National Forest infested with invasive cheatgrass will soon be sprayed from the air.

Forest officials have signed off on a draft decision that will douse cheatgrass with herbicides on crucial big game winter range, within fuels reduction and logging projects and along roads, trails and power lines.

“My decision authorizes annual treatment of approximately 20,000 acres,” forest Supervisor Tricia O’Connor wrote for the decision. “This includes an estimated 5,000 to 15,000 acres that could be treated using aerial application of herbicides.”

Herbicides initially proposed for aerial operations include imazapic and rimsulfuron.

Bridger-Teton staff assembled an environmental impact statement over the past couple of years to gain authorization to spray from the air. The document weighs the effects of using aerial spraying and outlines methods approved for dealing with other nonnative plants over the next 15 years.

O’Connor’s decision must still navigate the objection process. Concerned citizens have until Nov. 12 to submit comments. Objections can be emailed to Regional Forester Nora Rasure at objections-intermtn-regional-office@usda.gov.

WGFD board to meet

The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission is gathering for its next meeting Nov. 19 and 20 in Powell. It’s the last scheduled meeting of 2019.

Find an agenda and link to a livestream of the meeting at WGFD.wyo.gov/About-Us/Game-and-Fish-Commission.

The day before the meeting, on Nov. 18, the commission is expected to hold a workshop about keeping an office in Jackson, creating a joint regional office in Pinedale or going with one of several other options. Details about the workshop have not been announced.

Wildlife photo contest

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s in-house magazine, Wyoming Wildlife, has put out a call for submissions to its 49th annual photo contest.

Photos are being accepted online until midnight Nov. 25. Winning entries will be published in the February 2020 photo issue of Wyoming Wildlife. The grand-prize winner will receive $600 for the best overall photo and a $350 voucher for a print on metal, gallery mount or other canvas at Artizen Photo Printing.

Prizes are also offered for first, second and third places in each of the four photo categories.

Contestants can submit up to 10 photographs, and the maximum size for each is 9 megabytes. Each must represent one of the following categories: Wildlife, Scenic, Recreation, Flora.

Submit images at TinyURL.com/wyomingwildlife19. Contact Patrick Owen with any questions at 777-4547.

— Mike Koshmrl

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Mike has reported on the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem's wildlife, wildlands and the agencies that manage them since 2012. A native Minnesotan, he arrived in the West to study environmental journalism at the University of Colorado.

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