Wyoming Game and Fish employees feeding hay to thousands of elk just south of Jackson Hole in the South Park feed ground.

Feeding The Problem

First Aired Thursday, July 14, 2011

A gracious effort to save the Jackson Hole elk herd.

What began in 1912 as a gracious effort to save the Jackson Hole elk herd from harsh winters, shrinking habitat and dwindling forage, has morphed into a century-long feeding program on the National Elk Refuge and 22 other State-run feed grounds. This biological experiment has created a petri dish for wildlife disease, and is now one of the most contentious and fiercely debated issues in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. "Feeding the Problem" is a balanced and in-depth exploration of this unique conservation dilemma. 

What began in 1912 as a gracious effort to save the Jackson Hole elk herd from harsh winters, shrinking habitat, and dwindling forage, has morphed into a century-long feeding program on what is now the National Elk Refuge and 22 other State-run feed grounds. This biological experiment has created what some call a "petri dish" for wildlife disease and is now one of the most contentious, fiercely debated issues in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

The fed elk have high infection rates of diseases such as scabies, hoof rot, and brucellosis resulting from the unnatural congregation of the animals on the winter feed grounds. However, after a moose infected with Chronic Wasting Disease was found just miles from the feed grounds, there is a deadly new threat looming over the elk herds.

Feeding the Problem explores the social, historical, and ecological impacts of Wyoming's elk feed grounds through stunning imagery and a powerful narrative. An eclectic mix of ranchers, outfitters, scientists, and wildlife officials shed light on this precarious situation and illustrate the important relationship between people and wildlife in Jackson Hole.

Feeding The Problem