Park Elk Population Estimated to be Less Than 900
Contact: Bill Whitworth, 701-623-4466
Results of an elk survey conducted in January show the number of elk in the South Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park to be just under 900 animals.
Although the park objective for elk in the South Unit is about 400, the higher numbers are not currently causing measureable changes in the park vegetation or environment.
“The park habitat can support more elk than the target number,” said Superintendent Valerie Naylor. “We set our objective conservatively to allow for drought or other poor environmental conditions. This gives us a buffer for times when the population is high.”
The park conducts an aerial elk survey every year. The survey is conducted in winter, when the highest numbers of elk are within park boundaries and when snow cover allows for better sightability.
“As with any survey of wildlife, the count obtained is not the exact number in the park, rather it is a very good approximation at the time it was flown,” said Naylor. “When we consider harvest from the past two hunting seasons outside park boundaries, this year’s survey is consistent with our previous estimates.”
During the survey, which was conducted January 20-22, biologists observed 622 elk in 91 different groups. The estimated, or corrected number, is 878 elk and is based on a sightability model that corrects for elk that may not be observed during the survey.
“The North Dakota Game and Fish Department has adjusted hunting seasons outside the park, which has helped to keep the elk population from growing substantially over the last few years,” said Naylor. “We appreciate their willingness to adjust their elk management practices.”
The park is currently considering alternatives to reduce the number of elk in the park. The park’s Elk Management Plan/Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) is out for 90-day public review until March 19.