The park is in a planning mode unlike any we have ever before experienced. This year, we are working to prepare plans for bison, elk, prairie dogs, cave and karst, vegetation, and wildfire management. We all have a lot of work to do, so roll up your sleeves and participate where you can.
Biological Sciences -Wildlife Management
Park staff recently completed an intensive inventory to find and map all of the prairie dog colonies within the park. The acreage of active prairie dog colonies within the park is now up to 1855.
Over 500 miles has been covered on foot in less than a year within Wind Cave as we try to keep tabs on the health and comings and goings of elk. Overall condition of adult elk has been good, with some of the calves coming through the winter in less than fair condition. Ear ticks are a contributing factor to the poor condition of some of these animals. As the flush of new growth starts, all elk should be making a good recovery. The annual shed of head gear is complete. It is a thrill to find a large set like these. We grow them big here in the park! The new growth of antler begins almost immediately, and almost all bulls are showing three to eight inches of velvet covered antler. The elk herds have broken up into much smaller groups than we have been seeing all winter, with a considerable number of the elk in the southwest corner now out of the park until next fall. Calving will begin in late May and will peak the first week of June.
With each passing spring day, new species of birds are arriving in the park. All habitats within the park are showing increased activity. Some of the birds are wasting no time in getting a quick start to breeding. We have already confirmed nesting of Golden eagle, Prairie Falcon, Red-tailed hawk, and Mourning Dove. It won't be long before we see the first broods of Turkeys, Sharp-tailed Grouse, and ducks. Many other species will be close behind.
Physical Sciences -Cave and Karst Management
Wind Cave National Park contains 26 known caves and a variety of karst features including blowholes, sinkholes, rock shelters, and sinking streams. Wind Cave is the park's primary resource and historically inventory, survey, and cave management efforts have been focused upon it. The other caves and karst features have received sporadic attention. Knowledge of caves and other features within the park is vital to their protection, as well as the protection and management of Wind Cave and the groundwater resources within the park. Many of the caves contain paleontological and archeological resources, with several providing habitat for bats such of Towsend's big-eared bat and fringe-tailed myotis, US Fish and Wildlife Service species of concern. Little is known about the other biological or physical resources. The park contains large area that have never been investigated for caves or karst features.
The objectives of this project are to:
Locate unidentified cave/karst resources within the park
Complete a written/photo-documentation of each feature
Conduct cartographic surveys of each cave and karst feature
GPS each cave and karst feature and enter data into the park's GIS
Conduct biological, geological, cultural, and paleontological visitual inventories of each cave and karst feature
Develop management strategies for the caves and karst features
Natural Resources Preservation Program funding will provide two seasonal physical science technicians to survey the park this summer in search of caves and karst features.
Comments and feedback about Resource Ramblings are encouraged and can be made to Dan Foster, in person, or via email.