A cooperative project was recently completed to help meet the elk management goals of Wind Cave National Park and Custer State Park.

Game, Fish and Parks (GFP) and Wind Cave National Park used contracted helicopters to herd elk from Wind Cave into Custer State Park.

Elk numbers were well above the population goal for Wind Cave and the preferred alternative to reduce the population was facilitated movements of elk out of the park. Elk were moved from Wind Cave to Custer State Park on two occasions — 197 elk on March 1 and another 192 elk on March 8.

The majority of these 389 elk were cows and calves. Twenty-six of these cow elk are radio-collared, allowing biologists to track their movements.

“The plan was to move elk north into CSP and west into Black Hills elk management Unit 3,” said Chad Lehman, GFP senior wildlife biologist. “Jump gates were lowered and segments of fence were opened for elk to leave Wind Cave, and we were able to facilitate movement of elk into CSP. Currently these elk remain in CSP, and we will continue monitoring their movements.”

After these facilitated movements, it is now estimated that Wind Cave and Custer State Park each have 500 elk.

Logo courtesy South Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks

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