Governor Convenes Pinedale Town Hall to Discuss Wildlife Losses
This winter has been one of the hardest winters Wyoming has experienced in recent history. According to temperatures recorded at the Pinedale airport, the 30-year average for days of temperatures below zero is approximately 39 days. This year, there were 62 days below-zero temperatures. Compounding the winter conditions has been an unusually large amount of snow, with many areas currently at 125-150% of the average snowpack. These factors have severely impacted Wyoming wildlife, and concerns from the public have grown as antelope, and deer carcasses have become substantially visible.
In response to the growing concerns Governor Gordon heard from constituents and legislators, the Governor called for a town hall meeting to provide an opportunity to hear directly from citizens in areas most impacted and to discuss solutions that work for Wyoming wildlife. The town hall was held at the Pinedale library and was open to the public.
Joining Governor Gordon and Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) Director Brian Nesvik was Dr. Kevin Montieth, a professor at the University of Wyoming’s Haub School of Environment and Natural Resources. Dr. Monteith shared with the audience that in addition to tougher than usual winter conditions, antelope have been hit hard by a rare bacterial pneumonia, which appears to be spreading.
Dr. Monteith further explained that some solutions that have been called for, such as feeding antelope and mule deer, are not good solutions because, unlike elk, the digestive systems of these animals cannot quickly adjust to hay. Monteith explained to an audience of more than 200 that the best solution to help Wyoming wildlife is protecting and enhancing the animals’ habitat and protecting migration routes so animals can more easily seek forage. Access to their natural foods over the summer and fall allows the animals to enter winter with higher body fat content, helping them survive winter when shrubs and sagebrush brush are scarce.
Governor Gordon and Director Nesvik heard many suggestions, including limiting hunting quotas and seasons this year. Director Nesvik explained that this is an ongoing evaluation, and the WGFD continually monitor all the factors, taking them into account in future decisions. “We are experiencing one of the toughest winters for big game in Wyoming’s recent history,” noted Director Nesvik. We have difficult decisions to make, and I appreciate everyone who came to our town hall. Rest assured; those tough decisions will be made in consideration of biology and the advice we hear from concerned citizens.”
Concluding the town hall, Governor Gordon stated, “I thank all who came to the town hall in person or virtually. Wyoming people care deeply about our wildlife. That was clearly shown today. I greatly appreciate all the suggestions, questions and comments they shared today. Wyoming folks are not shy. I am committed to working with our citizens to provide healthy wildlife populations for generations to come.”