The Star Tribune reports that Wyoming officials have detected chronic wasting disease in new areas of the state (click here to jump to the article). According to Scott Talbott, assistant wildlife division chief with Game and Fish, “We’re concerned that CWD continues to spread to new parts of the state”. Hmm . . . if they are so concerned, why can’t they admit that the lack of wolf predation as an ecological force (in most of Wyoming) may actually be aiding the spread of CWD?
Just as the restoration of wolves to Yellowstone has produced rapid and permanent ecological changes, including the recovery of riparian plant communities (click here for a list of articles), horse-sense says that the effect of a coursing predator would be to reduce the prevalence of a neurological disease such as CWD. Such an assertion may seem like a stretch, but remember that an animal with CWD will be more vulnerable to predation because the disease manifests in ways that cause the animal to be less coordinated and perhaps less responsive. Moreover, coursing predators generally reduce the density of their prey on the landscape, thus reducing the likelihood of elk and deer grazing over the same exact locations (and thus swapping spit). Click here for an article on the buzz about this hypothesis amongst scientists.
Hunters in the Cowboy State would do well to plead with the Department of Game & Fish (and ‘Governor Dave’) to join the 21st century and open the door to wolves. Unfortunately, Wyoming officials seem hell-bent on relegating wolves to Yellowstone (click here for article). Talk about fiddling whilst Rome burns.