Elk won't have Wind Cave National Park as a sanctuary from hunters for much longer, as crews are making progress on installing a fence to keep the ungulates out of the park during the fall hunt.
The fence is seen as one step the park can take to help reduce the number of elk in the area. Wind Cave's Elk Management Plan calls for a population range of 232 to 475 elk in the park. Last winter’s elk population was estimated around 900.
Many of the elk that winter in the park leave in the spring. This plan would allow elk to naturally leave the park when the gates are down. The gates would then be raised prior to the hunting season to allow hunters outside the park, as part of regular hunts administered by South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks, to reduce the number of elk using the park.
Phase One of the fencing project is nearing completion. It involves upgrading four and a half miles of fence and installing eight gates along the park’s western boundary south of Highway 385. Work on Phase Two, upgrading fence and installing seven gates north of Highway 385, continues.
“The gates and new fence will not be fully operational until next year,” said park superintendent Vidal Davila. “We knew it would take most of the summer and fall to complete the project. The gates will remain down until we can fully implement the plan next summer.”
If the hunting success rates outside the park fail to adequately reduce and or maintain the elk population within the park, the plan calls for the use of such other alternatives as the use of roundups and shipping live elk to a processing plant or the euthanasia of the elk, or the use of sharpshooters within the park.