FORT COLLINS, Colo. – More than a decade after Rocky Mountain National Park used marksmen to kill elk to protect the park from an overpopulation of the iconic animal, another national park in Colorado is using the same strategy.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife said it is seeking qualified sharpshooters to cull elk in Great Sand Dunes National Park and National Wildlife Refuges in the San Luis Valley in southern Colorado as part of an elk dispersal project set to go through February 2023.
Rocky Mountain National Park used trained volunteers to shoot 52 elk in the park from 2009 to 2011 as part of its 20-year Elk and Vegetation Management Plan launched in 2009, according to park spokesperson Kyle Patterson. The plan also implemented other methods of reducing elk’s impact on the landscape.
Patterson said culling elk via shooting was discontinued in February 2011 because the park reached its population objective and has been “at or below the wintering elk population objective since that time.” She said approximately 100 elk overwinter in the park, 200 overwinter in Estes Park and 300 to 500 elk overwinter in the Estes Valley. Some of those elk migrate to lower elevations in winter, especially west of Loveland.
Colorado has the largest elk herd in the world with around 300,000 animals.
Shooting qualifications ‘difficult for even the most seasoned elk hunters’
Colorado Parks and Wildlife isn’t looking for just any hunter; the agency said it is looking for exceptional shooters.
Those hoping to be selected must complete an application process, and those selected from this pool will be required to pass a shooting test. The shooting part requires hitting targets 12 inches by 14 inches, the size of an elk’s vital organs, at 200 and 300 yards three times in a row without a miss within a three-minute period.
“This qualification has proven to be difficult for even the most seasoned elk hunters,” Rick Basagoitia, the state wildlife agency’s area wildlife manager, said in a news release. “This standard is likely the minimum allowable standard given the difficulty of the work we need volunteers to do.”
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Applicants must be at least 18 years old and are required to pass a background check and sign volunteer agreements. They will operate under a dispersal coordinator. Volunteers will be contacted about scheduling the shooting qualification after they submit their application.
Those selected will have a volunteer commitment of as much as two days. Volunteers who take an antlerless elk are allowed to possess the carcass.
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Story Credit: usatoday.com