Some midweek trail closures in the South Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park will be necessary through early December as elk culling operations resume.
Park staff has begun the transition from elk reduction to the maintenance phase of the park's Elk Management Plan. A limited number of elk will be removed by park staff from October 30 through December 6. Volunteers will not be necessary during this phase.
The South Unit’s backcountry trails will be closed on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays during the time elk are being removed. Roads and overlooks, as well as Cottonwood Campground, will be open daily. The four front-country trails in the South Unit - Buck Hill, Wind Canyon, Ridgeline Nature Trail, and Coal Vein Trail - will also remain open. The park’s North and Elkhorn Ranch Units will not be affected.
"We don't anticipate any conflicts between the elk management team and the public, " said Superintendent Valerie Naylor. "However, safety is always our top concern, so we are closing the backcountry for three days per week when elk removals are taking place."
The park completed an elk collaring operation in September and a recent population count by staff biologists indicated that between 215 and 300 elk reside in the park’s South Unit. Park officials say they are proceeding cautiously with the maintenance phase, as elk populations are more difficult to estimate at lower levels.
Based on repeated survey results, it was determined that a limited reduction would be necessary this year to ensure that future population growth remains within the target range of 100-400 animals, as specified in the Elk Management Plan.
Meat from the animals taken during the maintenance phase will be packed out of the park and donated to local American Indian tribes and Sportsman Against Hunger through the North Dakota Community Action Partnership, in much the same way it has been done in the last two years, though the quantity will be substantially less.