News Release

20 Elk collared in Wind Cave National Park for research project

Man in flight gear leaning over and repacking a net into an orange container with a helicopter sitting on the ground behind him.
A crewmember packs a net used to capture elk in Wind Cave National Park.

NPS Photo

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News Release Date: December 10, 2021

Contact: Tom Farrell, 605-745-1130

Wind Cave National Park, S.D. – Twenty elk in Wind Cave National Park were recently fitted with GPS (Global Positioning System)/VHF radio-telemetry collars to help monitor elk inside the park for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD).

This study, led by a U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientist, is evaluating whether it is possible to reduce the prevalence rate of CWD in the park’s elk herd by reducing herd density. Over the last several years, the park has culled 317 elk from the herd.

The recently installed collars will be used to help monitor elk movements, mortality, and habitat use as part of this CWD study across the park’s three sub-herds. This brings the total number of elk currently collared in the park to 72. The park aims to maintain the total elk population at around 250 animals with some year-to-year variability.

“We are beginning to see signs of an overall healthier herd, with larger animals and more calves,” said Park Superintendent Leigh Welling. “However, it’s too early to tell if the lower density is affecting the prevalence of CWD, but it is something we will continue monitoring in the coming years.”

The collars record the location of the elk three times a day, at different times each day, and are estimated to last 5 years. This is the study’s sixth year.

Last updated: December 10, 2021

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