Elk Reduction Program to Begin in Grand Teton

Bull elk with "harem" of cow elk during fall rut

October 2, 2009
The annual elk reduction program in Grand Teton National Park will begin on Saturday, October 10, 2009. Under its 1950 enabling legislation, Grand Teton is mandated by federal law to conduct an elk reduction program — when necessary — for the conservation of the elk population in Jackson Hole. Because the elk herd is above its management objective of 11,000 animals, intensive management (including the reduction program) is warranted.

The elk reduction program utilizes Wyoming-licensed hunters that apply for and receive limited quota permits in hunt areas #75 and #79. As provided in the 1950 legislation, a park permit temporarily deputizes the hunters as park rangers, giving them the authority to take one elk. Permits are for either cow/calf elk, or for any elk. A map showing specific park locations open to hunters participating in the elk reduction program is available at the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center in Moose, Wyoming.

As a part of their special use permit—and as an added safety measure—each participant receives a strong, proactive message alerting them to the presence of grizzly bears throughout the authorized hunt zones. In addition, hunters are required to carry bear pepper spray as a non-lethal deterrent for use during potential bear encounters. Hunters are also advised not to leave a carcass unattended and to remove their harvested elk as soon as possible. Each fall, park rangers strictly monitor and patrol the elk reduction areas located within the park to ensure compliance with rules and regulations associated with this wildlife management program.

The recent killing of grizzly bear #615 by a hunter in the Ditch Creek area east of Grand Teton makes a compelling case for hunters to carry bear spray and be alert while in the field. Scientific studies indicate that bear spray is more effective than bullets in defusing a potentially life-threatening bear-human encounter; bear spray provides more effective protection for the hunter as well as the bear. Based on his extensive research, bear biologist Dr. Stephen Herrero has concluded that the chances of a person incurring serious injury from a charging grizzly bear significantly increases when bullets are fired versus when bear spray is used as a defense.

Bears and other scavengers throughout the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) have learned to seek out and feed on gut piles and other hunter-related carrion during the fall season. This represents an important, highly nutritious food source to these animals, and it can create circumstances when bears aggressively defend carcasses and gut piles. Hunters and other park visitors should keep in mind that dozens of grizzlies use the park regularly and may be encountered anywhere and anytime. All necessary precautions for recreating in bear country need to be strictly followed, particularly those that apply to hunters.

The Conservation Strategy for Grizzly Bears in the GYE guides the continuing efforts by land and wildlife managers to conserve bear habitat and minimize bear-human conflicts through education and compliance with appropriate regulations, including those related to keeping a safe distance when viewing bears. To ensure a healthy grizzly bear population, every effort is made to educate park visitors, concessioner employees, local residents and hunters about living and recreating responsibly in bear country.

Rangers will continue to monitor park wildlife and educate all users about their personal responsibility for maintaining a safe environment—for their own health, as well as for the welfare of the animals.