RMNP halts elk culling early | SkyHiNews.com

RMNP halts elk culling early

Tonya Bina
Rocky Mountain National Park - Colorado

Volunteer sharpshooters took out 13 elk in Rocky Mountain National Park during a 24-day culling operation.

The Park’s mission stopped short Feb. 19, ahead of initial plans to shoot 100 elk this winter.

Park surveys during the past two weeks changed that number to 30 to 40 elk in accordance with an estimated 600 to 800 elk within the park, according to Park statements released Tuesday.

That population number is closer to historic numbers prescribed in the Elk and Vegetation Management Plan, a study completed over a seven-year period.

In all, 33 elk were removed – 20 of those were removed as part of studies on Chronic Wasting Disease and multi-year fertility control. Those animals were darted and euthanized by researchers.

The Park also reported one cow elk deemed road kill, and at least two elk, one cow and one bull, killed by mountain lions.

Chronic wasting disease testing has been completed on 11 of the 13 animals taken by the culling team of qualified trophy hunters and park agents.

Those members of the public who entered a meat disbursement lottery through the Division of Wildlife now face much slimmer chances of receiving elk meat. Carcasses that tested negative for chronic wasting disease are being doled out through a random lottery system. Out of 5,000 applicants, about 200 names and their alternates were picked for 100 ” now 13 ” removed elk.

“Park staff will continue to monitor the population to determine what management actions will be needed for next winter,” said Park spokesperson Kyle Patterson.

Meanwhile, the wildlife protection group WildEarth Guardians is the plaintiff challenging the Park’s decision to shoot elk. Congress banned hunting inside Park boundaries in 1929.

The Park maintains that controlling elk populations, or “culling,” is necessary to repair damaged resources.

The case was filed last year in the United States District Court in Colorado.

The Humane Society of the United States also filed its legal opinion in an amicus brief.

“Renaming hunters as ‘volunteers’ does not change the fact that they are hunting animals within the Park, an activity expressly prohibited in Rocky Mountain National Park,” said Andrew Page, senior director of Wildlife Abuse Campaign of the national Humane Society.

“This action eviscerates a decade’s long hunting prohibition in The Rocky Mountain National Park that could be expanded to the entire National Park System. We recently asked Interior Secretary Salazar to review this policy.”

– Tonya Bina can be reached at 887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail tbina@skyhidailynews.com.

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