Managing Elk in Rocky Mountain National Park


How to manage burgeoning elk populations in Rocky Mountain National Park can be a controversial topic. NPS photo.

Kurt Repanshek's picture

How to manage the elk in Rocky Mountain National Park has been in the news lately, what with the beginning of culling operations. But the decisions on how to manage the elk herds were not made overnight.

Also not occurring overnight were the problems the growing elk population have exacted on the park. Many other species -- beavers, deer, birds -- have suffered in various forms as the elk numbers continued to skyrocket.

While the Moraine Park area of Rocky Mountain had a population of 100 beaver in its riparian areas in 1964, today there are just six, largely because of the problems elk have caused by heavily browsing down the area's willow stands. By taking an active hand in managing the elk population, which boomed without a keystone predator in the park that might have tamped down the numbers, park managers hope the willow stands, and the beaver populations, will rebound.

This 12-minute video explains the problems park managers were confronted with, and how they arrived at the solutions they're implementing.