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Wind Cave National Park to Share Elk with Custer State Park

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WIND CAVE NATIONAL PARK, SD – The superintendents of Wind Cave National Park and Custer State Park announced today that the two parks will cooperate in management of elk that use the parks.

The parks share a common fence that restricts movement of elk between the two areas. Under a recently developed Memorandum of Understanding, the parks will install drop-down gates along the fence to allow elk to travel between the two parks. The agreement will benefit both parks by allowing managers the tools needed to adaptively manage elk populations.

"It’s much more economical to reduce our elk herd by allowing them to move into Custer State Park, where they are legally hunted," said Wind Cave Superintendent Vidal Davila. "This plan protects natural and cultural resources in the national park from over-grazing while improving wildlife viewing and hunting opportunities in Custer State Park."

"This plan is a win-win for both parks. It allows Custer State Park to bolster its population, and it allows Wind Cave to meet its management objectives," said Custer State Park Superintendent Matt Snyder. "The ability to move elk into Custer State Park is timely because population levels in the park are currently low. This plan will help grow the park’s elk population, which will improve viewing opportunities and provide future hunting opportunities."

Wind Cave’s Elk Management Plan/Environmental Impact Statement, completed in 2009, calls for an elk population of 232 to 475. This last winter, there were an estimated 850 to 900 elk in Wind Cave National Park.

Davila continued, "Using the adaptive management techniques, we not only reduce the over-abundant elk in the park, but provide a recreation opportunity for the state park."

The collaborative project will start sometime this summer or late fall when conditions are right for the movement of elk from the national park to the state park.

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