N.D. pushing plan to thin elk herdUnhappy with federal alternatives, the State Game and Fish Department is pushing its own plan to thin an overpopulated elk herd at North Dakota’s Theodore Roosevelt National Park.
DICKINSON (AP) — Unhappy with federal alternatives, the State Game and Fish Department is pushing its own plan to thin an overpopulated elk herd at North Dakota’s Theodore Roosevelt National Park.
State officials say hunters should be able to kill elk and keep the meat from the bloated herd.
The Park Service says the state’s plan, which it has pushed for more than a year, would take an act of Congress.
The National Park Service released a report last month on possible ways to cull the herd. The Park Service’s alternatives include volunteer shooters and relocating elk after checking them for disease. Other options include encouraging hunting outside the park where the elk have escaped fenced boundaries, or rounding up excess elk and euthanizing them.
“Out of the four alternatives the Park Service is considering, our department is not satisfied with any of those,” said Randy Kreil, wildlife chief for the state Game and Fish Department.
Kreil believes there would be little interest from people to kill the animals without the possibility of keeping the meat.
Bill Whitworth, the park’s chief of resource management, said the state’s plan calls for hunting, which is not allowed within national parks.
The state’s plan “would be basically against national park policy and that’s why we can’t bring that forward as a reasonable alternative,” Whitworth said.
Kreil said he doesn’t see much difference between the Park Service’s idea to hire volunteer sharpshooters, other than they wouldn’t be able to keep the meat.
“At the same time shooting elk with sharpshooters is apparently not hunting because people cannot keep the meat,” Kreil said. “We think that that distinction is arbitrary.”
Whitworth said the Park Service is not interested in pursuing a hunting option. He said Congress probably would not support legislation that would allow hunting in the federal park.
Comments on the Park Service’s management plan and environmental impact statement will be taken over the next three months.
Kreil said officials from his agency will attend public comment meetings to push the state’s plan.
“We’re just like any other member of the public at this point in terms of our ability to influence the process and provide comments,” Kreil said. “We’re not willing to give up on what we believe is a reasonable and sensible alternative.”