HOT SPRINGS, S.D. (AP) — Officials are considering herding hundreds of elk out of Wind Cave National Park in southwestern South Dakota to reduce a bloated herd.
The park plans to reduce its elk herd by about 600 animals in the next two years to prevent overgrazing. Officials plan to use a helicopter to move them outside of the park, where they would be available to hunters.
"Areas outside of the park, they generally have more tolerance for elk since their populations are down," said National Park Service biologist Greg Schroeder. "So it's really a win-win for both sides here."
Mike Kintigh, regional director for the state Game, Fish and Parks Department, said many area landowners have said that they would like to see more elk, though some are concerned about potential damage to private property. There are several programs in place to help landowners with elk depredation problems, according to Game, Fish and Parks Regional Wildlife Manager John Kanta.
The park used to round up excess elk and sell them to American Indian tribes out of state, but that practice was ended a few years ago when chronic wasting disease was found in the herd. The herd has since grown to about 1,000 animals, when it can sustain only about 400.
Theodore Roosevelt National Park in southwestern North Dakota had a similar problem with its elk herd. Officials there used managed hunts that included volunteer shooters for large reduction efforts in 2010 and 2011 in which nearly 900 animals were killed.