The annual Elk Reduction Program in Grand Teton National Park will begin on Saturday, October 6, 2012. Under its 1950 enabling legislation, Grand Teton National Park is mandated by federal law to conduct an elk reduction program-when necessary-for conservation of the Jackson elk population. The legislation also directs Grand Teton to jointly develop this annual program with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, and for the Governor of Wyoming and Secretary of the Interior Department to approve the plan. Biologists and administrators from both agencies have reviewed available biological data and concluded that the 2012 program is necessary to keep the Jackson elk herd at or near objective and maintain a desired summer distribution of elk throughout their natural range.
The elk reduction program utilizes Wyoming-licensed hunters that apply for and receive a limited quota permit to hunt in designated areas 75 and 79: both of which are inside the park but east of the Snake River. A map showing locations open to these special permit hunters is available at the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center in Moose, and online at http://www.nps.gov/grte/planyourvisit/elkhunt.htm
Park officials recommend that visitors recreate in areas west of the Snake River that are closed to hunting and advise visitors to wear hunter orange or other bright colors whenever they enter open hunting zones away from park developed areas.
The park's elk reduction program is an important management tool that differs somewhat from other elk hunting programs in the region. The use of archery, hand guns, or other non-center fire ammunition rifles is not permitted, nor is the use of artificial elk calls. In addition, hunters, regardless of age, are required to carry a hunter education card, and to carry and have immediately accessible bear spray as a non-lethal deterrent for use during potential bear encounters. Information packets accompanying each permit warn hunters of the risk of bear encounters and offer tips on how to minimize the probability of human-bear conflicts. For the past four years, packets have also contained information encouraging hunters to use non-lead ammunition. Grand Teton managers, along with National Elk Refuge and Wyoming Game and Fish Department officials request that hunters make a voluntary switch to non-lead ammunition to support quality hunting practices that will benefit the long-term conservation of all wildlife. In the past three years, the use of non-lead ammunition has increased and park managers are hoping the trend continues.
The need for the park's elk reduction program stems partly from an intensive management framework that includes annual winter feeding programs on the National Elk Refuge and in the upper Gros Ventre drainage. Feeding sustains high numbers of elk with unnaturally low mortality rates. A majority of elk that are fed on during the winter on the Refuge also summer in, or use migration routes through, Grand Teton National Park. Consequently, the reduction program targets elk from three primary herd segments: Grand Teton, southern Yellowstone National Park, and the Teton Wilderness area of Bridger-Teton National Forest.
Each fall, park rangers intensively monitor and patrol elk reduction areas to ensure compliance with rules and regulations, interpret the elk reduction program to visitors, and provide hunters with information on local conditions associated with this wildlife management policy.
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