Economic Issues for Elk Management in Yellowstone

The Economics of Elk Hunting:

Hunting of big game species such as elk is an important economic factor for the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

  • Hunters accounted for 60% of all visitors to the area in 1985, which benefit the local communities (lodging, food, etc).

  • In Wyoming in1998, the total number of hunters (residents and non-residents) was 55,838 with a total harvest of 22,586 elk. The National Elk Refuge, Teton Park and Jackson Hole all benefit economically from the hunting of elk.

Hunting contributes to the United States economy, and helps support government agencies.

  • Hunting in the United States encompassed 14 million people in 1996, totaling $4.8 billion on license fees, stamps, tags and permits. Hunters spent $72 billion on food, lodging, transportation, equipment, etc.

  • The state fish and wildlife agencies depend on the hunting revenues through license fees and excise taxes on equipment to increase their budget. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Federal aid program included the federal excise tax on hunting equipment and distributed $165 million to state agencies in 1999, some of which goes to hunter education and safety classes.

Economic consequences of Elk transmission of Brucellosis

 The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is responsible for eradicating brucellosis from cattle in the United States.  It also has authority over controlling brucellosis in animals that may be carriers of the disease, including elk and bison.  In 1934, APHIS began a nationwide brucellosis control program.  The program requires that cattle and bison herds be tested and if they are found to be free of brucellosis, the state they reside in can be classified as “brucellosis-free.”  As of June, 1997, the states surrounding Yellowstone, including Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming, were certified as brucellosis-free.  When brucellosis-free states ship cattle to other states, the importing state is assured that they are not risking transmission of the disease to their livestock industry.  Because of this assurance, the exporting state does not have to perform expensive testing with each shipment.  The state of Montana estimates that because of its brucellosis-free status, it saves between $1 million and $2 million a year by not having to test its exported cattle.

The economical impacts of Brucellosis can be significant.  The testing required to prevent and maintain Brucellosis-free status can cost states and cattle ranchers millions of dollars.  Since APHIS’ brucellosis control program began, over $3.5 billion in federal, state, and industry funds have been spent trying to eradicate the disease.

Major economical concerns about Brucellosis relates primarily to bison as they are the main carriers. However, elk do carry brucellosis but do not pose as much a risk as bison do. Ranchers and state cattle industries are generally more concerned about bison and less about elk. Nevertheless, the risk of transmission has substantial economic impacts regardless of the source.

To learn more about why elk are less a concern than bison, click here, or to learn more about economic impacts of bison sources of brucellosis, click here.

Economic Issues influenced by elk in the Yellowstone National Park area: Tourism

Tourism is an important commodity in the Yellowstone National Park area. During a recent survey, 93% of all visitors that come to the park are there to see the wildlife. Elk is one of the most visible of all wildlife, besides bison, because of their size and population numbers. The National Park Service states that the increase in tourism has not been met by fee increases. Current entrance fees have not gone up with the cost of living increases. This is a problem in the eyes of the National Park Service whom says that the increased funds would go to educational programs and natural habitat protection.

These programs will directly affect the elk. The educational programs are based on educating the public, adults and children, in the wildlife and geology of the park. In turn the park will receive well-educated people to make decisions for the public park. The natural habitat protection will try to protect parts of the park from being disturbed by humans (through agriculture, industry, logging, and human settlement).

There is a private group that has helped fund projects within the park. The Yellowstone Park Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to protect, preserve, and enhance Yellowstone National Park. This foundation has raised $3.5 million to support projects and programs related to the wildlife and geology of Yellowstone

Links on Hunting:




Links on Brucellosis: