By: Tom Farrell
Twenty-five elk in Wind Cave National Park were recently fitted with GPS (Global Positioning System) radio collars to help monitor elk inside the park for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD).
This study, led by a U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientist, is evaluating whether it is possible to reduce the prevalence rate of CWD in the park’s elk herd by reducing herd density. Over the last two years, the park has culled 286 elk from the herd. The recently installed collars will be used to help monitor elk movements, mortality, and habitat use as part of this CWD study. This brings the total of elk currently collared in the park to 66.
“These collars will provide information about elk habits and movements as we continue to learn more about CWD,” said Park Superintendent Vidal Dávila. “We estimate our elk herd population is around 240, close to our management plan’s target population of 232. This means we will not be doing an elk cull this year.”
The collars record the location of the elk every seven hours, and on a rotating basis, several elk each day will have their locations recorded every 15 minutes. This is the third year of this study.
A helicopter from Leading Edge Aviation out of Clarkston, Washington, takes off to collar elk in Wind Cave National Park. (NPS Photo)