A bull elk in the forest

Elk: Taking and Giving Back

ICTMN Staff
4/9/11

In Colorado, elk are gobbling up young willows as if they were candy. Over in North Dakota, the elk are feeding needy humans.

It’s the time of year when elk wander, their springtime appetites sending them in search of food, and everyone is looking for a management method.

Elk are plaguing new growth along stream banks at Baca National Wildlife Refuge, The Pueblo Chieftain reported on April 4.

The animals come down from the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, the newspaper said, but they are literally eating away the willow-bush habitat of migratory songbirds and the endangered Southwestern willow flycatcher. Anywhere between 1,000 and 4,000 elk periodically wander onto the 78,000-acre refuge, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service told residents of the area recently. The officials said they had to come up with a plan soon. That has not yet been decided.

Meanwhile, over at Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota, there was a slightly different story to tell. From November through January 20, volunteers and National Park Service personnel scoured 46,000 acres of the park, the Arizona Daily Sun reported.

They were looking to prune 250, but they ended up removing 406, the newspaper said. The park’s capacity in its South Unit was for 350 elk. At first the Park Service tried to capture and relocate them, but then some of the area’s elk and deer were found to be diseased, so the dispersal was halted and the population grew to 400. Then in 2004, the Parks Service started formulating a new plan, but by the time that was done, it was 2010 and there were 950 elk in the South Unit.

About 200 volunteers hunted the elk and took home 161 pounds of meat each. North Dakota Native American tribal services received 21,543 pounds, the Daily Sun reported, and the North Dakota Community Action Partnership, which administers the state's Sportsmen Against Hunger Campaign, distributed 13,315 pounds to those in need.

Elk are still roaming freely in Cherokee country, according to the Tahlequah Daily Press, though they recently dwindled down to the level they were at when reintroduced to the J.T. Nickel Family Nature and Wildlife Preserve, which lies on Cherokee lands, 10 years ago.

Meanwhile, watch hunters rescue a stranded elk in this 2008 video from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, a conservation and hunting group.

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