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Elk Reduction Comes To Grand Teton National Park

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The elk population in Grand Teton National Park will experience its seasonal reduction as hunters take to the park this month. NPS Photo.

If you're heading to Grand Teton National Park this fall, don't be surprised to hear occasional gunshots, as the park's annual elk reduction hunt runs from Thursday into early December.

While most national parks ban hunting, the Grand Teton elk hunt was mandated by Congress as a means of regulating the size of the Jackson elk population. The hunt dates to 1950, when provisions were made for the expansion of Grand Teton National Park.

The size of the reduction is developed in conjunction with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and approved by Wyoming's governor and the Interior Department secretary. Biologists and administrators from both agencies have reviewed available biological data and concluded that the 2012 program is necessary to keep the Jackson elk herd at or near the objective of 1,600 elk.

The need for the park’s elk reduction program stems partly from annual winter feeding programs on the National Elk Refuge just to the southeast of the park and in the upper Gros Ventre drainage. These feed grounds are maintained by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and are also mandated by legislation.

“Feeding sustains high numbers of elk with unnaturally low mortality rates. A majority of elk that are fed during the winter on the fefuge also summer in, or use migration routes through, Grand Teton National Park," said Grand Teton spokeswoman Jackie Skaggs in a press release. "Consequently, the reduction program targets elk from three primary herd segments: Grand Teton, southern Yellowstone National Park, and the Teton Wilderness area of Bridger-Teton National Forest.”

The elk reduction program utilizes Wyoming-licensed hunters who apply for and receive a limited quota permit to hunt in designated areas. Over the years the number of permits issued has been drastically reduced. From 1990 to 2005, an average of 2,500 permits were given out, a portion of which were “either-sex” tags that allowed the shooting of bulls. In 2011, 750 permits were issued and 278 elk were taken. This year the park is only issuing 725 permits and completely eliminating the shooting of bulls.

The use of archery, handguns, or other non-center fire ammunition rifles is banned, as is the use of artificial elk calls. Hunters, regardless of age, also are required to carry a hunter education card. They also must carry readily accessible bear spray as a non-lethal deterrent during potential bear encounters. An information packet warning hunters of the risk of bear encounters and offering tips on how to minimize the probability of human-bear conflicts accompanies each permit.

Hunters are also encouraged to use non-lead ammunition to support practices that will benefit the long-term conservation of all wildlife. In the past three years, park managers have seen a decrease in the use of lead ammunition.

Each hunter is only permitted to take one elk. Occasionally, when an elk is confiscated because of a violation of the hunting regulations, park rangers give the meat to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, which in turn gives it to needy families.

Park officials recommend that visitors recreate in areas west of the Snake River that are closed to hunting, and advise visitors to wear hunter orange or other bright colors whenever they enter open hunting zones away from park developed areas. A map is available online that shows where hunting is permitted.

Back in June the Sierra Club urged the park to reassess the culling operation, but a response by Grand Teton Superintendent Mary Gibson Scott closed the door on that option, saying that issues raised by the group had already been addressed.

An article and audio report by Casper’s K2 radio station delves a little deeper into the elk hunt’s impact on grizzly bears, which includes their becoming habituated to eating the remains of elk left by hunters in the backcountry (another potential issue that the superintendent indicated had been adequately considered).

Comments

Timothy,

Ok, that's better.

I sounds to me that your real issue is that the hunt takes place at all. However, once Congress establishes a law, which they did by requiring the NPS at Grand Teton National Park to conduct this hunt, the NPS is required to comply with that law. To get the hunt to end or be done in another jurisdiction (FWS) would require additional Congressional action. Which would probably be followed by years of legal wrangling in court to determine which should prevail. It sounds to me that you are barking up the wrong tree by asking the park to abandon the hunt.

Just FYI, Congress has written hunting into the enabling legislation of many NPS units, it is not just Grand Teton where hunting is allowed.

As to your objective criteria, what is acceptable marksmanship? And who determines it? What is acceptable knowledge of the spcies and it's behavior and how is that determined? What is acceptable map reading? Acceptable carcass care? Track identification?

I really like the documented history of safe hunting and hunting success... Cool, I'll have all my drinking buddies vouch for me....:-) (attempt at humor)

What you are asking for is basically a very costly, unrealisticly expensive program to impliment in this period of flat (or maybe even shrinking NPS budgets). What I see is that you feel that without this program the hunt should not continue and you would get your wish. So back to you really don't want this hunt to happen at all.


Dear Old Ranger:

Re: What objective criteria would you suggest for determing hunters as qualified and experienced? [color=#0000ff]...identification of applicant might be a good start? ...marksmanship? ...knowledge of the species and it's behavior? ...hunting skills such as track identification, estimating distances, map reading abilities, carcass care, etc? ...documented history of safe hunting and hunting success? ...investigation to determine if the applicant has had any prior game violations? [/color]

Re: Do you also have issues with the hunts that occur on other public lands that surround Jackson. Those hunts have even less criteria for the hunters, yet have the same "safety" issues you speak of. Is your concern only with those hunts on NPS lands? ...[color=#0000ff]the National Park Service are and have been actively committing fraud by deputizing hunters as National Park Service Rangers in efforts to circumvent the 1942 International Treaty for Nature Protection and Wildlife Preservation in the Western Hemisphere signed by North and South American countries which banned hunting in National Parks...(you might want to read this Treaty)... ...the safety issues are not the same...other public lands do not have the concentration of game, unsuspecting visitors, density of highways and roads and density of hunters... ...Grand Teton National Park continues to hide behind the 1950 Legislation but they only puff those portions they are in compliance with and omit what they are not in compliance with...some how I believe they should fully comply with the law... [/color]

Re: It is very easy to be critical, the hard part is to offer realistic suggestions for improvement. I guess I'm challenging you to be part of the solution you seem to be seeking. In my experience, individuals that are unable to offer realistic solutions along with their criticism, after a time, tend to be ignored and their complaints are treated merely as irritating background noise, like the sound of mosquitos buzzing around your ears. I'm also wondering if I'm even giving you too much credit by assuming that you are seeking improvement. Bluntly, I'm wondering what your real agenda is. [color=#0000ff]...suggestions have been submitted for years...for decades bull elk were harvested which was scientific fraud if the intent of the hunt was to cull-because of our "suggestions" no bull permits are issued...the hunt in area 79 Spread Creek to Lizard Creek has been one of the most dangerous areas because of the terrain and visitor concentration-that area will not be hunted next year because of our "suggestions"...last year was the first time that the park made any effort to provide notice and warning to unsuspecting visitors of the hunt by placing sandwich warning signs in highway pulls-again this is due to our "suggestions"...the park uses the elk refuge feeding as their excuse to continue the hunt and the "suggestion" has been made repeatedly that the refuge should issue the 750 permits for the refuge grounds which do not allow public access and the hunt is truly regulated and controlled because of access...abandoning the park hunt would allow elk to naturally migrate to the refuge, consuming available grasses along the way, delaying the early hunt-forced arrival of elk on the refuge and would change the current forced migration pattern of driving elk into developed areas on the park's southern border...[/color]


Given that the NPS requires hunters to carry bear spray, the NPS should be required to show hunters--in a brochure or online video--how to use bear spray while carrying a rifle. Some field carries for rifles require two hands. Would Grand Teton officials suggest that hunter let go of their rifle with one hand so they could attempt to deploy bear spray one-handed? Some field carries for rifles are typically done with your strong hand (right or left), so a hunter would have to try to use bear spray with his off hand. If the issue is hunter safety, Grand Teton should train hunters how to use their rifle quickly and effectively.


Timothy,

You responded but you did not answer any of the questions I asked.

1. What objective criteria would you suggest for determing hunters as qualified and experienced?

2. Do you also have issues with the hunts that occur on other public lands that surround Jackson. Those hunts have even less criteria for the hunters, yet have the same "safety" issues you speak of. Is your concern only with those hunts on NPS lands?

It is very easy to be critical, the hard part is to offer realistic suggestions for improvement. I guess I'm challenging you to be part of the solution you seem to be seeking. In my experience, individuals that are unable to offer realistic solutions along with their criticism, after a time, tend to be ignored and their complaints are treated merely as irritating background noise, like the sound of mosquitos buzzing around your ears. I'm also wondering if I'm even giving you too much credit by assuming that you are seeking improvement. Bluntly, I'm wondering what your real agenda is.


So for the "years you have witnessed", how many park goers were injured by an inexperienced hunter during the elk hunt in the Tetons?


The fact that someone can pass a hunting test on paper, even at 100%, has no bearing whatsoever of their abilities in the field, where safety becomes a little more of an issue than it is in the classroom.


The permit was not obtained fraudulently. Every rule for application was followed - it was the park service that did not bother to check i.d. or require that applicants proved they knew their way around a gun.


Dear Old Ranger, Anonymous and Dick G.:

Re: "16 USC Sec.673c. may say that the hunters must be "qualified and experienced". It however does not define either term." ...you must have been a spokesperson for the National Park Service....

Re: "...why did you go through this process?" ...to prove what I have witnessed for decades...the hunters deputized as rangers are not vetted (which is a requirement of the legislation) and they prove to be careless, dangerous and should not be allowed to run amok in Grand Teton National Park destroying natural resource and endangering visitors & wildlife.

Re: "I'd say you are qualified to participate as a qualified participant???" ...you have proven my point...thanks for your qualification...as meaningful as the certificate, license and deputization I currently hold...

I would say that we should re-visit this in December when all of the negative ramifications

This comment has been lightly edited to remove a gratuitous remark. -- Ed.


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