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Theodore Roosevelt National Park's elk-reduction effort at halfway mark

December 15, 2010 | 11:29 am

A small group of elk on the Ridgeline Nature Trail in Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

The elk-reduction effort in Theodore Roosevelt National Park has reached the halfway mark of its 12-week season.

To date, 200 elk have been removed from the North Dakota park. The goal by the time the program is finished on Jan. 20. is to cull at least 275 cow elk from the herd of approximately 950 animals that make the South Unit area their home.

Teams of up to four volunteers, led by park staff, have been working since Nov. 1 to reduce the elk population. During the first six weeks of the program, 105 volunteers have participated in field activities, most from North Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin, though some have come from as far away as Alabama and California.

"The elk reduction has exceeded all of our expectations," said park superintendent Valerie Naylor. "The volunteers have been very professional and have done a great job of working with their team leaders to safely shoot the elk, take biological samples and, in many cases, pack the elk out of the back country."

So far, 11,846 pounds of elk meat from the cull has been donated to North Dakota American Indian tribes, and 4,578 pounds of meat has been donated to Sportsmen Against Hunger for use in food pantries throughout the state. The remaining meat was transferred to the North Dakota Game and Fish Department for donation back to the volunteers who assisted with the elk-reduction effort.

All elk removed from the park have been tested for chronic wasting disease, officials said, with all tests negative.

-- Kelly Burgess

Photo: A small group of elk on the Ridgeline Nature Trail in Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Credit: National Park Service