Nebraska GPC Seeking Input on Box Elder Elk Management

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The Wildlife Division of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission is seeking public comment on a proposed recommendation to extend the boundaries of the Box Elder Elk Management Unit for the 2008 elk hunting season.

The current Box Elder Elk Management Unit, established in 2002, involves about 400 square miles, primarily an area of dissected canyons southeast of North Platte. The proposed expansion of the unit would include all of southwest Nebraska and the southern Sandhills, bounded by Kansas on the south, U.S. Highway 183 on the east, Nebraska Highway 91 to Dunning and Nebraska Highway 2 to Hyannis on the north and Nebraska Highway 61 to Ogallala and Interstates 80 and 76 to the Colorado border on the west. The Colorado-Nebraska border would form the remaining western boundary of the unit.

According to southwest Nebraska District Wildlife Manager Richard Nelson, "The purpose of expanding the management boundaries is to allow the agency to manage elk in southwest Nebraska in the best interest of the resource, the hunting community, and private landowners that may be affected by the habitation of wild, free-ranging elk."

Nelson said that elk in southwest Nebraska primarily have established their herds in the dissected canyons of the current Box Elder Management Unit, but elk are also scattered as individuals or in small concentrations throughout the southwest and southern Sandhills.

"Our primary management tool for limiting or enhancing elk populations is hunting, and without that tool available, we are fairly restricted." Nelson said.

According to Nelson, expanding the unit opens the door to management options. "If a landowner has elk on his property, he may either grant legal permit holders access to his land to hunt, or he may deny permission. Nothing really changes except for the legal option to hunt in an area where elk hunting is now prohibited."

Nelson said that since the Box Elder Management Unit opened, 44 hunters have harvested 18 elk within that unit through the 2006 season. Elk sightings outside the current unit boundaries are common and there have been numerous elk-vehicle collisions on area highways.

Nelson said that comments regarding the proposed changes should be mailed to him at the Commissions North Platte office, 301 East State Farm Rd., 69101, or by calling (308) 535-8025.