National Park Elk Management Plan Includes Culling Herd

Rocky Mountain National Park is overrun with elk, but a plan to reduce the numbers of animals at the popular destination is bringing flack.

More than 3,000 elk are overgrazing parts of the park and damaging habitat for other species, especially those that inhabit aspen groves.
The National Park Service wants to reduce herd size by nearly two–thirds.Park biologists came up with five alternatives, including re–introducing wolves, using fertility controls and a "no-action" plan. The most controversial of the proposals is to use sharpshooters to cull the herd. For the least impact on visitors the park service would hire contractors to shoot the elk at night, using night vision scopes and spotlighting.

The Colorado Division of Wildlife is normally responsible for the management of wildlife in the state, but the Federal Government holds that responsibility in National Parks. A spokesperson for the Wildlife Division says biologists have not received enough information on the plan to offer its' support, but they say sharpshooters could help drive more elk out of the park and into the sights of waiting fall hunters, helping the division achieve it's objectives for managing elk.

They also say there are no plans to re-introduce wolves into the state, preferring to let the animals find their way here naturally. So far there have been several wolf sightings in the state, including one wolf that was found dead near Idaho Springs last year after being hit by a car.

The National Park Service is accepting public comment on the various management plans until July 4th. The final plan is expected to be released next year.