With only a few predators remaining in the Rocky Mountain National Park, there is now an over abundance of elk. According to park officials, the Elk have overgrazed the vegetation leaving other park animals without proper food. The park believes that the grazing has led to a lack of natural habitat sources for some park wildlife.
A recent Associated Press news article by Dan Elliott out of Boulder, Colorado states that The National Park Service has decided against utilizing wolves to control the elk population in the Rocky Mountain National Park. The National Park Service has decided to request that park employees shoot the excess elk. Trained volunteers have been enlisted to assist the employees with the culling process. The park has erected fences to protect the vegetation in some areas of the park.
WildEarth Guardians, a wildlife advocacy group took the case to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals after a Denver federal judge ruled against WildEarth in 2008. The case was heard at the University of Colorado Law School as part of an outreach program. The advocacy group believes that wolves were a natural option compared to hunting the elk. A spokesperson for the group stated that the public was not given a chance to voice an opinion concerning culling the elk by allowing hunting in a national park. WildEarth argued that allowing volunteers to shoot elk was equivalent to hunting.
In 1995, wolves were reintroduced successfully at Yellowstone National Park.
Rocky Mountain National Park officials believe that introducing wolves into the park to control the elk population would pose a safety hazard to park visitors and nearby citizens. Officials predicted the wolves would require a great deal of attention from park employees.
Park employees estimate the elk population to be between 600-800 in the lower elevations. No elk were shot during the winter of 2011 as park officials believe the numbers were in an acceptable range. 131 elk have been shot during the culling process since 2008.
What do you think? Do you believe that park officials made the correct decision in 2008 to require park employees to cull the elk population via hunting? How do you feel about the park enlisting the assistance of trained volunteers to shoot elk in the culling process? Do you believe the park should consider reintroducing wolves into the park? Please feel free to add your comments below.
Royalty-free photo courtesy of youwall.com.
Image credit: Tobias Akerboom (at hutmeelz)