To the Editor:
Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a chronic fatal disease of the central nervous system in ungulates such as mule deer, white-tailed deer, elk, and moose.
It has now reached epidemic proportions in the United States and Canada. Humans are potentially at risk as well.
Recently an adult buck mule deer killed on a highway in Grand Teton National Park tested positive for the disease. This is especially alarming, for it heralds the likely arrival of CWD among Wyoming’s numerous overcrowded elk feeding grounds.
Once that happens, it’s “Katie bar the door!” because surely it will spread to Yellowstone’s elk herds with devastating effect. Hmm!
But then ... maybe not. Yellowstone has something going for it that doesn’t exist elsewhere, or at least not in sufficient numbers.
Yellowstone National Park has a protected wolf population of about 100 wolves in 10 packs, and wolves are nature’s best defense against the spread of CWD. They have kept North America’s elk and deer herds healthy for thousands of years.
Other predators such as mountain lions, bears, and coyotes help stem the spread of diseases, but none are as effective as wolves.
Hunting elk, the wolves favorite prey, is dangerous work. Wolves are often injured or killed while engaging a much larger animal possessing razor-sharp hooves and deadly antlers. Consequently, wolves are risk adverse and generally target ungulates which are sick, injured, or elderly.
They have also developed the unique ability to detect ungulates infected with CWD in its early stages — even before the symptoms are detectable by the human eye.
Wolves are the elk and deer hunters’ best friends, but regrettably, many hunters regard them as vermin and unwelcome competitors.
To defeat CWD, we need to dispel the myths and rethink our relationship with wolves. In reality, they are the “good guys.”