TRNP Elk Management Plan
You have probably heard the news that the elk herd in Theodore Roosevelt National Park needs to be reduced. How that is done seems to be generating a considerable amount of interest (dare I say controversy). Why is all of this going on now? That part doesn’t seem to get into the news, so to paraphrase Paul Harvey here’s the rest of the story.
In the past, to keep the population well within the carrying capacity, the park service would occasionally relocate a number of elk to other federal entities, tribes, or states for reintroduction programs. The efforts seemed to work quite well.
That has changed due to concerns about the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease. For those of you not familiar with Chronic Wasting Disease, it is the elk and deer version of Mad Cow Disease. In 2002, the Director of the National Park Service issued new guidelines for relocation of elk only if “the National Park Service is 99% confident that chronic wasting disease is present in less than 1% of the population.” It is interesting to note, however, that Chronic Wasting Disease has not been documented in North Dakota.
So now the park is considering five alternative methods to manage the herd: No action, direct reduction with firearms, roundup and euthanasia, testing and translocation, and hunting outside the park.
Public hunting within the park has been eliminated from consideration because such a hunt would be “inconsistent with laws, policies, regulations, and case law regarding public hunts in units of the National Park Service.” To legally hold a public hunt in the park would require specific authorization from Congress or a change in National Park Service policy.
A public comment period on the management of elk in the park is on now and will continue until March 19. The park may also hold public meeting around the state to solicit comments. I have included the park service website for information on the elk management plan on the webpage for this Natural North Dakota, at prairiepublic.org.
There will likely be more about this issue in the news over the next few weeks. Theodore Roosevelt National Park is a special place for many North Dakotans. I am hopeful the correct decision will be made, and the park will continue to be one of the best places to enjoy a little Natural North Dakota.
Natural North Dakota is supported by NDSU Central Grasslands Research Extension Center and Minot State University-Bottineau, and by the members of Prairie Public. Thanks to Sunny 101.9 in Bottineau for their recording services.
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