Changes to the elk depredation hunting program in western South Dakota are being sought by some landowners. The wanted change seeks to limit the impact rocky mountain elk have on livestock operations, the Capital Journal reports.
The paper writes that the majority of problems are coming in and around the Black Hills, where some ranchers say they’re wintered 150 to 200 elk on their properties. The grazing elk not only compete with cattle for scarce winter forage, but they’ve also been known to damage hayfields in the summer.
The primary focus for reducing conflicts between elk and ranchers for the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department (GFP), the Capital Journal reports, has been allowing hunters who had elk hunting licenses for the regular fall hunting season but didn’t harvest any elk the first crack at hunting elk later in the year.
“In my opinion we need to go in there with sharp shooters or conservation officers to strategically remove these elk and not use hunters that can’t do the job,” GFP Commission member Scott Phillips, who owns a ranch near the Black Hills, told the Capital Journal.
Phillips told the paper one of the problems is 12,126 hunters applications for the 930 available, which caused many of the landowners to not be prepared for the season.
South Dakota is taking steps to fix the problem, including GFP Wildlife Division director Tony Leif saying the state’s elk management plan of animal population range has been set near the high end of 6,000 to 8,000, the Capital Journal reports. The paper also reports 1,700 elk hunting licenses will be issued this year and in 2017 and the application fee has been raised from $5 to $10, some of which money will go toward helping landowners better cope with depredation.
The Capital Journal writes depredation hunts have occurred, but with such few hunters that have hunted big game, they rarely find success. Those hunts are also conducted only on private land and only when a depredation complaint has been made.