The Colorado Division of Wildlife (DOW) and the Colorado Wildlife Commission said Thursday that Rocky Mountain National Park’s decision to reduce elk numbers in the park with sharpshooters should rely instead on qualified volunteers.
The park’s Final Elk and Vegetation Management Plan will use sharpshooters to kill up to 200 elk a year to reduce the herd of about 3,000 elk to 1,600 to 2,100 animals.
Tom Burke, chairman of the Colorado Wildlife Commission, said qualified volunteers should cull the elk.
The park’s elk management plan, including the use of sharpshooters, would cost about $6 million and last for up to 20 years.
The overpopulation of elk in Rocky Mountain National Park has caused habitat damage to certain areas of the park. Hunting isn’t allowed in the park, established in 1913.
The DOW and the wildlife commission also oppose parts of the park’s plan involving the use of fertility control agents and wolves to thin elk herds. The Colorado Wildlife Commission took a position against those methods last year.
However, Burke praised the management plan for leaving open the option of using qualified volunteers as well as sharpshooters.
“Repeatedly, the Colorado Wildlife Commission has said that we are proponents of using qualified citizen volunteers to assist in managing the elk population in Rocky Mountain National Park,” said Burke.
“Culling 100-200 or less elk a year may not have the impact desired on the current population of 3,000 in Rocky Mountain National Park,” he said. “The language in the plan falls short of our expectations.”
He also said fertility control agents and wolves shouldn’t be utilized because readily available citizen volunteers could cull the elk.
The Colorado Wildlife Commission is an eleven-member board that sets regulations and policies for hunting, fishing, watchable wildlife, non-game, threatened and endangered species.
The commission adopted a resolution in July of 2006 calling for the use of qualified public volunteers as the appropriate method to achieve the population reduction to the Rocky Mountain National Park elk herd.
“The Division of Wildlife and the Commission worked hard to develop a viable alternative to using federal tax dollars to fund government sharp shooters and wasting the carcasses,” said Burke.
“The plan isn’t reassuring when it comes to addressing our constituents’ concerns pertaining to either of those issues,” he said. “We believe we owe it to our constituents to get a stronger commitment from the park staff to use qualified public volunteers to restore a natural balance in the park.”
The resolution is available at:
http://wildlife.state.co.us/WildlifeCommission/Archives/2006/July2006.htm To reach the resolution, click “Minutes” and scroll to pages 49 and 50.