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SD Wind Cave Elk Reduction

by DC Staff


The National Park Service, working with South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks will use skilled volunteers to reduce its elk herd at Wind Cave National Park to help address the high rate of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in the park. Beginning in mid-November, trained volunteers selected through a lottery system managed by GFP will work with NPS staff to reduce the number of elk inside the park.

Volunteers will be selected by lottery through GFP and will be trained by park staff.

The elk management plan for Wind Cave has a targeted population objective of 232 to 475 elk. Current population estimates indicate numbers of around 550 elk in the park. A recently released report by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) estimates the CWD prevalence rate in the park’s elk herd is around 9.5 percent, higher than previously understood.

Scientists seek to determine if this increased prevalence is linked to the higher density of elk in the park. It’s believed that by reducing the elk population within the boundary of the park, it will also reduce the prevalence of CWD. The effectiveness of this management action will be evaluated over the next several years to coincide with the lifespan of the disease in elk.

“Scientists believe the density of the park’s elk population and CWD are related,” Wind Cave superintendent Vidal Dávila said. “We’ll be following the herd’s health over the next several years to determine if the reduced density of elk lowers the prevalence of CWD in the park.” Every animal taken during this operation will be tested for CWD.

The NPS is partnering with GFP to distribute meat with a “non-detected” finding for CWD to Feeding South Dakota, an organization dedicated to eliminating hunger in the state, to be distributed. Also, volunteers who work an entire week on this operation will be eligible to receive some of the elk meat. Only meat with a “not-detected” test result for CWD will be distributed.

Deadline for apps ended on Sept. 28.