Feds Grapple With RMNP Elk Cull

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The return of elk to Colorado is an undeniable conservation success story. However the burgeoning herd in Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP), where hunting is not allowed, has become a growing headache for federal wildlife managers. Complicating the problem has been an increasing rate of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in the herd, with disease rates approaching one elk in every nine.

The Denver Post has a good write up on elk in RMNP detailing the problems of keeping the herd in check.

Ever since settlers arrived, elk and people have clashed. Hunters initially wiped them out. Around 1913, Coloradans reintroduced elk, hauling about 40 by train and truck from Wyoming to this area. Now nearly 280,000 elk forage around Colorado. State wildlife managers set target numbers of elk that they think can co-exist with people — and allocate hunting licenses accordingly. Roughly 229,000 hunters a year harvest around 47,000 elk — more than entire elk populations in other Western states.


GooseHunter Jr's picture

When they first started

When they first started culling elk in RMNP I always thought they should open it up to archery hunters, but then I thought about it and all you might see is a bunch of elk runing around with arrows stuck in them.  Most of the elk up there are pretty tame and you can get real close to them.  I thought opening it up to hunters would bring in some extra revenue, but then do you close the park for the weekend to ensure the safety of the other vistors.  It just did not make sence to open it up to hunters.  But I also feel the use of sharp shooters in itself can be a bit dangerous. 

My dad received an elk last year from the cull, and the whole process was areal smoth deal and the elk it self was very well taken care of with no meat loss. 

I would really like to get a chanve tio go after one up there, but that will never happen as it would cause alot more problems then they already have in the park.  the herd definetly need to be thinned because some of the parks where you can see them alot, the grass has gotten real thin and you do not see as many elk in those parks as we used to.

hawkeye270's picture

You got to love the way

You got to love the way newspapers and media outlets can make any postive management tool look bad... just with their titles! "Feds culling elk as disease continues killing them"??? Really? They sure know how to throw their own spin on a situation. Although I think we will see hunting in certain new national parks in the future but I do not think you are going to see it in Rocky Mountain National Park any time soon. I have worked and volunteered there off and on for three years and even I can tell you that the park is not really built for a public hunt. The logistics of a public hunt (due to all the beurocratic BS) would cripple a public hunting project. I see the logic in it Jim... but realistically I don't see it happening.

The timing of your proposed hunt is the biggest problem. September and into October are some of the busiest times for the park in terms of visitation. The elk rut draws a crazy amount of people to the park every year and the rut in the park is much longer than in non hunted populations. Sounds like the mayor of Estes is not too keen on the cull. I am not so sure that the cull is driving more elk into town... in fact, I'm almost certain this is not the case. So few elk are being taken and the cull is so concise that this claim is kind of bogus.

jim boyd's picture

I could not get the Denver

I could not get the Denver Post article to open - but it looked like it contained verbiage that they were culling elk in the RMNP.

I have a better idea - invite me to help!!!!

It sounds like a case for a controlled archery only hunt... again, we find a great way to generate revenue (OK, I am a big proponent of this) and solve an overcrowding issue.

With disease rates at 11%, I see no reason why you would not create a controlled hunt... even if it were only a week or two - look at the visitation rates for September and October and pick some of the least visited weeks... and then close off small sections and let archery hunters go in and hunt.

We do not want the general public to see an elk felled or wounded - in fact, we want exactly the opposite - for them not to see it - but with the sizes of the areas out there, separating the two should be fairly easy.

If an archery hunt can not do the job - open a one week rifle season where the public (including extremists and anti-hunters) are excluded.

To allow overcrowding and disease seems incredibly counterproductive to the elk specifically and to wildlife in general.

I am also stunned at two other facts -

That there are 280,000 elk in Colorado and that there are 229,000 annual hunters - that seems staggering to me! That is almost one hunter for every elk that exists out there...

If we had hunters like that in SC - 700,000 deer in the state - we would have to have about a half million hunters - I can not even imagine that!

On the other side of the coin - 280,000 of the beasts - and 229,000 hunters - with a harvest of 47,000 elk - that is a success rate of over 20% - that seems very high.

That also means that only 16.7 % of the elk are taken in a given year... each year in SC, roughly 33% of the deer are harvested - but I also do not know how old a mature elk is... for deer it is only 3.5 years to maturity.

Add to the fact that the 47,000 elk that are harvested represent more elk than exist in some other states, I know where I want to go!!!

What a great way for Colorado to make money and also make themselves a favorite of hunters.

I flat can not wait to get out there!

This is a great write up - but I do feel that positive and proactive action is required.

I will get my stuff packed, pronto!

Jim, it's the second link -

Jim, it's the second link - not the first one to the Denver Post.