Wind Cave National Park Elk Capture Scheduled to Start Thursday

Wind Cave National Park officials hope to capture 35 elk this week so they can be fitted with radio collars that will allow their movements to be tracked. NPS photo.

As long as the weather allows, crews will head into Wind Cave National Park on Thursday, and Friday if necessary, to round up 35 elk and fit them with radio collars so their movements can be monitored.

The roundup is part of a three-year study to track movements of elk in and out of the national park located in southwestern South Dakota. The collected data will be used by park biologists to determine the effectiveness of a recently upgraded boundary fence designed to prevent elk from returning to the park during the fall hunting season.

This project is part of the implementation phase of the Elk Management Plan approved in December of 2009.

Many of the elk that winter in the park leave in the spring. The park's management plan would allow elk to naturally leave the park when gates in the fence-line 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.

Park officials want to reduce their elk herds, which count about 750 animals, by perhaps as many as 500 animals.

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.