Not even elk at Wind Cave National Park can escape the eye in the sky these days.
The other week biologists placed global positioning system collars on 35 elk so they could be tracked as they roamed. This marks the second year of a three-year study to document the effects of a recently implemented elk management plan.
This study will evaluate elk movements, distribution, and mortality rates from hunting outside the park during the implementation of the plan. The plan’s preferred alternative called for installing drop-down gates along the park’s west and southwestern boundary fence to help with controlling movement at various times of the year.
These gates will allow elk to leave the park in spring and early summer. After the elk’s annual movement outside the park is completed in the summer, the gates will be raised to prevent their entry back into the park.
Hunters will then be able to harvest the animals outside the park, helping to reduce the number of elk who currently use the park on a seasonal basis.
This study, conducted in partnership with U.S. Geological Survey, called for the attachment of GPS collars that use satellites to record the location of the elk every seven hours. On a rotating bases, several elk each day will have their locations recorded every 15 minutes.
“With the installation of the drop-down gates, these GPS collars will allow us to monitor elk movements in and around the park and help determine whether the plan is working,” said Wind Cave Superintendent Vidal Davila. "These collars will remain on until the fall of 2013.”