Wildlife Management - Populations Flourish
A.P. Chambers had almost no problems raising elk or bison. As these populations flourished, the problem soon became what to do with so many animals. As early as 1924, bison and elk were shipped to other refuges or sold as meat. After the Game Preserve was transferred to the park in 1935, the size of the range increased and the wildlife crowding problem diminished - for a while.
A Balancing Act
Even with the increased size, managers soon found themselves facing the struggle of balancing the ever-growing populations of elk and bison with a range whose health was in jeopardy. It was often necessary to provide feed for the animals. In 1940, the park wildlife report stated: sixty-five tons of prairie hay were purchased during the month for buffalo, making a total of 169 tons thus far this winter.
Reducing Herd Size
A serious program of animal reduction was needed. In 1930, a corral was built and bison and elk roundups were conducted. The least fit animals were slaughtered or live-shipped to stock herds in other parts of the country. In the 1940’s, the wildlife ranger thinned the herd by selectively shooting old, weak, or sick animals.
For more information about the return of the wildlife to Wind Cave National Park select from the listings below:
Did You Know?
Lewis and Clark, while on their journey up the Missouri River in 1804, noted that this "wild dog of the prairie...appears here in infinite numbers." More...