retreats from plan to kill elk to lessen disease risk to cattle
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[May 10, 2014]
By Laura Zuckerman
(Reuters) - Montana wildlife managers on Friday backed off a plan to
allow ranchers near Yellowstone National Park to kill elk as a
disease prevention measure, after the plan sparked criticism and a
lawsuit by hunting groups, an official said.
State wildlife commissioners last month approved the
pilot project designed to lessen risks of elk infecting cattle in
Montana with brucellosis, which can cause cows to miscarry.
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks spokesman Ron Aasheim said the
agency retreated from the plan in light of the lawsuit and conflicts
with hunting groups.
“We’ve regrouped here and said, ‘Let’s not fight this, let’s work
out an amicable solution,’” he said.
The plan to target elk from the area of Yellowstone National Park
was backed by the state’s influential livestock industry, which
fears wild herds of elk and bison exposed to the disease. The wild
animals seasonally migrate from Yellowstone into Montana, and
ranchers worry that could threaten the state’s brucellosis-free
status, which allows their cattle to be shipped across state lines
But the proposal to allow ranchers to kill as many as three elk each
during a period when many elk cows are pregnant drew the ire of
sportsmen, whose hunting licenses and tags provide the bulk of
revenue for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks and who have
traditionally been the agency’s staunchest allies in battles with
conservationists over wildlife management.
Elk are the latest wildlife in contention in a years-long fight over
brucellosis that has seen thousands of Yellowstone bison captured
and sent to slaughter for wandering into Montana in search of food.
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The Skyline Sportsmen’s Association and the Anaconda Sportsmen’s
Club this week asked a state judge to halt the elk killing plan.
The Montana-based hunting groups claimed in the lawsuit that
transmission of brucellosis from wild animals to domestic cattle “is
rare and unlikely” and faulted the wildlife agency for management
strategies that focused on thinning wild bison and elk herds instead
of pushing for vaccination of cattle.
The Montana Stockgrowers Association did not immediately respond to
a request for comment on Friday.
(Reporting by Laura Zuckerman in Salmon, Idaho; Editing by Alex
Dobuzinskis and Ken Wills)
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