Rocky Mountain National Park Ends Elk Culling for This Winter

Elk culling operations at Rocky Mountain National Park have wrapped up for the winter. NPS photo.

Though winter is far from spent in the Rockies, the folks at Rocky Mountain National Park say they have accomplished their goals in terms of removing elk from the park's herds for this winter.

Last September wildlife biologists suggested that up to 100 female elk might need to be taken to keep the park's elk population within historic numbers. But park officials say recent modeling of historic data, as well as two surveys completed by the park within the last few weeks, suggests that only 30 to 40 female elk needed to be culled, and that the park population is likely within the range of 600-800 elk as prescribed in the Elk and Vegetation Management Plan.

To date the park has culled 33 (20 in support of research related to Chronic Wasting Disease and multi-year fertility control research, and 13 as part of park culling operations). Additionally, there has been one road-killed elk and during the culling period there were two recorded kills by mountain lions as well.

Park staff will continue to monitor the population to determine what management actions will be needed for next winter.

To recap the numbers:

* 20 cow elk taken in support of the CWD/Multi-year fertility control research/study -- these animals were darted and euthanized by researchers;

* 13 were taken by the culling team;

* The first day of the culling operation was January 27, 2009; the last day an elk was culled was February 19, 2009.

* Chronic wasting disease testing has been completed on 11 of the 13 animals culled. Eleven tested negative, two tests are pending.

Comments

I read your previous article on limiting the elk numbers in the Rocky Mountain National Park. I also reviewed the Park Video and was interested in their stated goal of limiting the elk foraging on the willows. As they stated in the video this would lead to an improvement in the water table and other park resource. At the time I thought it a little odd that the Park Service was once again trying to manage elk numbers to aid the willow environment. As reported in the book, Where the Wild Things Were, the only permanent solution in the Lamar Valley of Yellowstone was placing a grey and hungry menace in the thickets. Yes I mean wolves. Rangers and hunters occasionally chasing the elk around the flats never resolved the problem. It only put a different 40 elks in the willow grove. Only fear of a fanged ambush on a regular basis had any effect on the willow predation. This forced the elk out onto the plains where they could more effectively flee from the wolves. Has anyone else noticed this retro management approach might not resolve the problem?