By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
Just after wrapping up its annual goat culling operation, Grand Teton National Park will begin an elk reduction program on Saturday, allowing elk to be killed to properly manage and conserve the park’s herd.
Federal and state resource managers have reviewed available data and concluded that the program is necessary this year.
The need for the cull is determined annually based on the status of the Jackson elk herd, including estimated herd size and composition and the number of elk on supplemental feed on the National Elk Refuge. A total of 550 hunting permits are authorized for this year’s program.
The only area open to the elk reduction program is Wyoming Game and Fish Elk Hunt Area 75, located mostly east of U.S. Highway 89. The Antelope Flats portion of this area closes Nov. 23, and the remaining portions close Dec. 13.
The Snake River Bottom between Deadmans Bar and Ditch Creek is closed.
Wyoming Game and Fish Elk Hunt Area 79 will be closed to limit harvest pressure on northern migratory and resident elk.
Participants in the program must carry their state hunting license, conservation stamp, elk special management permit and 2020 elk reduction program park permit, use non-lead ammunition, and are limited in the number of cartridges they are able to carry each day.
The use of archery, handguns, or other non-center fire ammunition rifles is not permitted, nor is the use of artificial elk calls. In addition, participants, regardless of age, are required to carry a hunter safety card, wear fluorescent orange or pink and carry and have immediately accessible a 7.9oz. (or greater) can of non-expired bear spray.
Information packets accompanying each permit warn participants of the risk of bear encounters and offer tips on how to minimize the risk of human-bear conflicts.
Following detection of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in a mule deer within Grand Teton National Park in November 2018, the National Park Service increased surveillance efforts to include mandatory collection of elk heads from all elk harvested during the program.
Park personnel will collect biological samples from the heads and submit them to the Wyoming State Veterinary Laboratory for testing. Participants can check their results online.
National Park Service and Wyoming Game and Fish staff will monitor and patrol elk reduction program areas to ensure compliance with rules and regulations, interpret the elk reduction program to visitors, and provide participants with outreach regarding bear activity and safety.
These areas remain open to park visitors, and wearing bright colors is highly encouraged during this time.
The park’s goat cull was supposed to take place in February, but was delayed to the fall after there was a call to stop the aerial gunning of the animals.