Elk management plan looks to reduce hundreds around Wind Cave

A KOTA Territory national park has revealed its plan to reduce the elk population, but the management plan has some landowners worried.

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Dozens of Hot Springs residents met with National Park, and SD Game, Fish and Park officials at the Mueller Civic Center Tuesday night to learn more about the elk reduction plan.

Regional wildlife manager John Kanta says wind cave national park plans to reduce its elk herd by 600 within the next two years. Kanta says the park plans to put up fences for the elk to jump, in hopes of pushing them out to Custer State Park and other bordering lands.

“The bulk of the work will be done with helicopter,” Kanta said. “We’ll bring helicopters in this winter, sometime in February or March, and use the helicopter to encourage the elk to go through jump gates that are installed on the fence of Wind Cave.”

The chief of resource manger at Wind Cave National Park agrees.

“Areas outside of the park, they generally have more tolerance for elk since their populations are down,’ added Greg Schroeder. “So it’s really a win–win for both sides here. So we can get rid of ours and they can use them on the other side of the fence.”

Still, some landowners expressed their concerns about banished elk winding up on their private properties. Kanta says Game, Fish and the Parks Service are prepared to offer help to landowners that are left to deal with that problem. He says there are a number of programs in place to help homeowners rid their yards of the animals.

Kanta says the elk management program is costly. The use of a helicopter is estimated to cost upwards of a hundred dollars and hour.

The program is not set in stone; the two organizations plan to weigh input gained at Tuesday’s meeting.

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