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.
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.