“Qualified Volunteers” May Cull National Park Elk

In its final proposal to reduce a problematic elk population in Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park announced this morning, the park service stopped short of opening a hunt to the general public, as was hoped by many hunters’ groups and some supportive legislators.

Under the U.S. Park Service plan, park personnel, authorized agents, private contractors and “qualified volunteers” selected and managed by park service officials may take 100 to 200 elk per year.

Elk

The proposal is a significantly reduced version of an earlier draft plan that called for culling up to 700 elk a year to bring the burgeoning elk numbers down more rapidly.

In addition to the culling plan, the Rocky Mountain News reports that park workers will install additional fencing around willow and aspen stands and use “aversion” techniques, such as rubber bullets or loud noises, to keep elk away from certain areas.

Despite the exclusion of hunters from the plan per se, hunting advocacy group Safari Club International announced in a press release today that the NPS decision to allow “qualified volunteers” as agents to help park personnel cull excessive elk herds is “a tremendous step forward.”

“Because the plan specifies that the volunteers will have to be ‘certified in firearms training, be specially trained in wildlife culling,’ and pass a proficiency test, SCI expects that these ‘qualified volunteers’ will come from the hunting community,” the press release read.

Earlier this year, Colorado lawmakers and Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus members Rep. Mark Udall, (D), and Sen. Wayne Allard, (R), introduced federal legislation that would allow the National Park Service to use licensed hunters as volunteers or contractors in the elk reduction effort.

Following a short comment period on the plan’s Environmental Impact Statement, a final “record of decision” is expected in early 2008.