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Reader Participation Survey: Should Hunters Be Used to Manage National Park Wildlife?


Should the National Park Service rely on hunters to manage populations of elk, such as these seen in Theodore Roosevelt National Park in December 2008? NPS photo by Nathan King.

It's fall. There's a crispness in the air, trees are painting the landscape with their colorful leaves, elk are in the rut. And in some national parks, hunters are being dispatched to tamp down those elk populations. Is that the right way to approach wildlife management in the National Park System?

This Saturday there's an elk hunt scheduled to begin in Grand Teton National Park. Just last week it was announced that hunters would be allowed to stalk elk in Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Debate over the use of hunters to manage elk populations at Rocky Mountain National Park has long raged.

With the outright removal of natural predators from the American landscape of the Lower 48 states, and with many parks simply too small to harbor predators, few parks can rely on wolves to provide population control as they do to a certain extent in Yellowstone and Glacier national parks. And birth control also is a questionable approach in many people's minds, though some parks are experimenting with it.

But do you think opening national parks, which have become refuges for wildlife and which draw visitors who relish in hearing the sound of a bugling elk at this time or year or spotting a wolf loping across a hill side, to hunters is the right way to go?


I think archery hunts would be ok in the national parks, after all the native americans were hunting animals with bows and arrows long before the whites arrived. Maybe instead of the letting archery hunters in during the September "rut" period, give the hunters access in October/November when the non-hunting tourists are not there. Also, it's been my experience that most archery hunters will have much more respect for the land and hunting ethics.

Unfortunately, neither rifle nor bow dictates a hunters ethics. Good training and sound moral judgements dictates a hunters ethics. Hunts in national parks are well-controlled. I know, I have participated in several in Grand Teton National Park. Regulations are in place, law-enforcement officers are omni-present, and hunts are limiting. Elk in this area have a limited area to go to due to development and are fed in the winter. Without humanely decreasing the number of elk going into the elk refuge in Jackson, many elk would starve to death.

They have already used hunting in Rocky Mountain NP, using "certified" sharpshooters, hunting at night, with subsonic loads. Although this is a reasonable approach, it is costly to the taxpayer, when they could have used members of the hunting community to generate revenue for the park and Division of Wildlife. Holding a controlled hunt on a Tues/Wed in the Jan/Feb timeframe in certain areas would have very limited visitor impact. I tent camp in the park during the winter, and more often than not, my daughter and I are the only ones in the only open campground (Moraine Park), and that is on a weekend. Seeing elk in the town of Estes, on the golf course, makes me sick to my stomach, as this is so far from a wild animal experience. No doubt herd reduction is in order.

As a hunter, I would NOT be interested in this type of hunt, as I enjoy being a lot further from civilization, but it could be a good approach for a youth-oriented hunt. However, in NO WAY should there be any hunting allowed during the fall, especially during the rut. The herds get harassed enough by visitors trying to get closer for a better photo.

I believe allowing hunting is the most cost efficient way for any land manager to manage wildlife when the natural predator-prey balance is insufficient to the task. Additionally, all federally managed lands, including NPS, belong to the citizens of this country; if our wildlife is to be hunted, we the people should be given the opportunity to participate in the hunting. Hunter ethics aside, I wouldn't mind hunting being restricted to archery simply for the noise factor. I've been out hiking and backpacking in both seasons, and definitely enjoy the peace and quiet of archery season. One of the few downsides to allowing hunting is that hunters take strong, healthy animals, where natural predators take the weak, sick, and old.

If the hunt were supervised by park service employees to make sure the hunt mimicked the science of natural predator-prey killing of the sick or injured then most people would probably support it. That's one of the reasons the NPS has hired people in the past or used it's own employees was that they would cull the herds scientifically.


Your comment, "One of the few downsides to allowing hunting is that hunters take strong, healthy animals, where natural predators take the weak, sick, and old." is not true.
1) For Colorado elk hunter harvest in 2008; 21,649 Bull elk, 23,622 Cow/Calf, so MORE cow/calves than bulls. Also, with over 223,000 hunters, that is only a 20% success rate.
2) Predators are opportunistic and will take any animal, including fully mature bulls. Scientific studies show that cows/calves are the primary targets of wolves, which one could argue are weaker than bulls. The weak, sick and old makes for a good story, but is not consistent with the way things happen in the wild.

I agree with you on the sound issue, hence my belief that any hunts happen mid-week in the winter, althoguh I am more for rifle usage on these hunts. I personally hunt with bow-n-arrow for elk, as I tend to hunt with my kids and feel a lot safer for us all during those seasons.

If it was my call I would allow the hunting. It could be regulated & limited to chosen areas. They could consult with someone like the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation or any state with a successful elk management program to figure out a good game plan. Also I'm sure the NPS could always use the added revenue, that could help the Park in multiple ways. I'm sure anyone could find draw backs, but I believe with a little research any rational person could see the benefits to the elk, park and the taxpayers would be positive. I am against paying of anyone to sharp shoot animals for culling of the herd. -MIKE

I am in favor of well managed hunts to help control population. Also the use of the meat from those animals, if not to feed the hunter's families , then to be given to those who are in need of food. There will always be those who will be poor sportsmen but with proper management , it could be kept to a minimum. I have seen the result of animals who were not controlled and overpopulated their own environment. Starvation and illness is a horrible end. Well managed hunts are an excellent solution to the potential problem of overpopulation and a great way to help supply needed food to those who are in need.

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