14 Dec 2007, 11:37pm
Latest Wildlife News
by admin

Final plan less lethal than earlier proposal to cull elk in Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park’s final plan to cull the elk herd in the Estes Valley is less lethal than a draft proposal released last year.

Park Superintendent Vaughn Baker laid out the culling strategies as part of the final environmental impact statement of the park’s Elk and Vegetation Management Plan during in a phone conference Tuesday morning.

Somewhere between 2,200 and 3,100 elk live in the Estes Valley and Rocky Mountain National Park, making it one of the highest population concentrations in the Rocky Mountains, Baker said.

Park biologists believe the elks’ foraging habits are to blame for reduced numbers of new-growth aspen and willow trees in the park, sparking a five-year effort to create the plan to reduce the herd size.

The management plan unveiled Tuesday has park officials and “authorized agents” culling 100 elk each winter with mainly rifles over a 20-year period, and no more than 200 animals killed annually. To goal is to achieve a target elk population of between 1,600 and 2,100 animals in 20 years, Baker said.

“That will be a year-to-year decision to determine how much culling is needed for the following winter,” he said.

Some years, no elk could be culled, Baker said, but added that the plan could change if populations aren’t going down.

That’s a dramatic shift from the preferred alternative released in the draft plan in July 2006, which had 200 to 700 elk shot annually to cut the population down to 1,200 to 1,700 animals in just four years. That plan would cost $16 million to implement and had rangers or authorized agents suited out with night-vision devices to corral and kill animals at night using various lethal devices… [more]



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