In an ongoing lawsuit, the National Park Service (NPS) defended its decision to use trained volunteers to cull overpopulated elk in the Rocky Mountain National Park instead of using wolves to aid management.
The animal rights group WildEarth Guardians sued the national park service in 2008 over its elk management policy that was instated that same year. The NPS launched a 20-year plan to keep the elk in check at the park with the aid of trained shooters to harvest excess elk. Since the program has been in place, 131 elk have been harvested.
In a hearing before the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, a WildEarth Guardians representative said the NPS should have launched a plan that uses wolves to naturally manage excess elk in the park. The group alleges that NPS did not give adequate consideration to the wolf idea, that the public did not have a chance to comment and that volunteer shooters are akin to hunters in the park.
In court, the NPS defended its decision to rule out using wolves in the hunt saying it acted properly by doing do. It also defended using volunteers to harvest the animals, saying that did not violate a hunting ban in national parks.
The elk cull was put in place because of overvegetation by the large population of elk that roam the park. They are believed to be crowding out other animals, while there are not enough natural predators there to keep the elk in check.
Blake Henning, the vice president of lands and conservation for the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF), said RMEF is not in favor of using wolves to reduce the size of elk herds but instead approves of using hunters to manage the resource.