South Dakota’s Black Hills contains a fair number of elk, which is reason for both hunters and wildlife lovers to celebrate. But even wildlife officials were shocked to see a massive group of the animals over 1,000 strong moving through the snow-covered landscape.

According to Keloland TV, contract surveyors from the state Game, Fish and Parks Department were on  a routine mission to gauge elk population when they ran into the herd near Minnekahta Junction. The large gathering of the animals was an unexpected but pleasant surprise.

“They were in the Jasper burn area, and that’s actually the largest group of elk that we’ve ever encountered; over 1,000 elk,” said GF&P regional wildlife manager John Kanta.

There are an estimated 4,000 rocky mountain elk in the Black Hills. Data gathered from the aerial surveys will be put towards finalizing harvest and management strategies.

Included is an interview with GF&P officials:

Image screenshot of video on keloland.com

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