Theodore Roosevelt National Park begins 2nd year of elk reductionsTheodore Roosevelt National Park will begin taking applications July 9 from hunters looking to volunteer in the second year of an elk reduction program.
By: Klark Byrd, The Dickinson Press
Theodore Roosevelt National Park will begin taking applications July 9 from hunters looking to volunteer in the second year of an elk reduction program.
Up to 200 sharpshooter applicants will be selected randomly to participate in one week of a controlled harvest aimed at lowering the number of elk, Wildlife Biologist and Elk Reduction Coordinator Wade Jones said.
The ideal population is less than 300, and there are about 650 in the park, Jones said.
The first year of the program successfully harvested 406 animals over the 12-week period and directors are hopeful to achieve similar results in their sophomore attempt, Jones said.
“We exceeded the expectations we set for ourselves (last year),” he said, adding that it might be difficult this year because the number of animals was greatly reduced from last years efforts.
Hunting for Humanity operator James Erickson said he is not going to throw his name in the hat, but added that this might be an exhilarating opportunity for some hunters.
“There are probably a lot of guys excited to go out and shoot an elk,” he said. “I know they have to reduce the herd one way or the other and to me it makes as much sense as any other.”
The National Park Service began work on an environmental impact statement to implement the program in 2003 after live translocation of elk was banned in 2002 due to chronic wasting disease, Jones said.
More than 5,200 applicants from 46 states entered the raffle last year, with 76 percent hailing from North Dakota or Minnesota, Jones said. He added that he could not guess the number of applicants for this season, but expected a “high volume.”
Chosen volunteers must pass a background check and marksmanship test and even though it is an attractive excursion for recreational hunters, the reduction-week activities are all business, Jones said.
“It is not a guided elk hunt,” he said, adding that volunteers go through safety training. “We use very clear and plain language that they are employees that are here to help with elk management. It is stated early that they are here to do a job.”
A post-reduction survey of last year’s volunteers showed that a majority of participants said it was “one of the most physically challenging activities, but also one of the most rewarding,” Jones said.
Various biological samples are taken from the harvested animals for demographic information including pregnancy rates and presence of chronic wasting disease, Jones said.
Volunteers are allowed to take the meat from one animal, while the rest is donated to Native American tribes and Sportsmen Against Hunger programs to help low-income individuals meet food needs, Jones said. More than 64,000 pounds of meat were taken last year.
Hunters can apply for the program as individuals or as a member of a party of four. The process is free and applications will be accepted until July 23.
Twenty volunteers will be selected to participate each week of the reduction period running from Oct. 17 to Dec. 23.