Officials, Park Service agree on elk planVolunteers will kill and keep some of the meat from an overpopulated elk herd at North Dakota’s Theodore Roosevelt National Park, under an agreement announced Wednesday by state officials.
By: By James MacPherson, The Associated Press , The Jamestown Sun
BISMARCK — Volunteers will kill and keep some of the meat from an overpopulated elk herd at North Dakota’s Theodore Roosevelt National Park, under an agreement announced Wednesday by state officials.
The plan announced by Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., and Republican Gov. John Hoeven would end a lengthy dispute with the National Park Service about how to deal with the bloated elk herd, though officials say the actual culling of the herd is at least a year away.
Hoeven and Dorgan have been pushing to allow volunteers, rather than government-funded sharpshooters, go into the park, kill the elk and share the meat with food pantries.
“I think it’s moved in the right direction,” Hoeven said of the elk plan. “Our hunters are certainly skilled and will do a fine job.”
Dorgan called it “common sense plan” that is both simple and inexpensive. It has been mulled for about five years.
“This, at first blush, seems like it would take seven-and-a-half-minutes to fiqure out,” Dorgan said. “We have all reached an agreement on how this will proceed.”
The ideal elk population at the park, which covers about 70,000 acres, is 100 to 400 but the herd has grown to about 900, said Bill Whitworth, Theodore Roosevelt’s chief of resource management.
Elk were reintroduced in the park two decades ago. A 2003 moratorium prohibits the park from transferring elk elsewhere due to chronic wasting disease in other states.
Park Service officials have said federal law prohibits the use of private hunters in the park, located in North Dakota’s Badlands.
State and federal officials still are working to determine who will qualify for the hunt and how the volunteers will be selected.
Whitworth said volunteers at a minimum would have to pass a firearms proficiency test in marksmanship.
Volunteers in five groups of four or five people each would pursue the elk, under the supervision of Park Service officials, he said. A similar method is being used in Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park.
The state Game and Fish Department already has increased elk licenses in hunting units next to the federal park to help deal with the problem. Whitworth said about 50 elk have been killed outside the park boundary since the season began last month.
As many as 275 elk could be killed in a season but no more daily than can be physically removed, he said.
“We do not want to waste the meat,” Whitworth said. The animals would be tested for chronic wasting disease before the meat is donated, he said.