_dmm8348

Over 14,000 pounds of elk meat was donated to Feeding South Dakota from an elk research project at Wind Cave National Park this winter.

This was first phase of a multi-year research project to reduce the prevalence rate of Chronic Wasting Disease found in the elk population at Wind Cave National Park was recently completed with 14,000 pounds of meat sent to the food bank.

CWD is a disease of the nervous system found in deer and elk. Working in conjunction with Wind Cave National Park, South Dakota Game Fish and Parks, and trained volunteers, park staff reduced the park’s elk population by 262 animals this winter.

South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks, Greater Dacotah Chapter of SCI (Safari Club International), South Dakota Sportsmen Against Hunger, Black Hills Sportsmen’s Club and volunteers assisted in this project.  Volunteers worked with wind Cave park staff in bitter weather conditions this winter to cull the elk population to address this destructive disease.

The National Park Service partnered with SD GFP to distribute elk meat that had tested negative for CWD to Feeding South Dakota, an organization dedicated to eliminating hunger in the state.  Only meat that tested negative for CWD was distributed.

Wind Cave National Park, Greater Dacotah Chapter of Safari Club International, South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks, South Dakota Sportsmen Against Hunger, and the Black Hills Sportsmen’s Club came together to provide over 7 tons of high protein elk meat to help feed struggling families in South Dakota.  With the cultural significance of elk, a significant share of the meat harvested from Wind Cave was distributed throughout the nine Native American Reservations in South Dakota. This highly nutritious meat helped to provide a source of protein to hundreds of families in need.

Scientists are seeking to determine if the park’s CWD prevalence rate is linked to the higher density of elk in the park. It is believed that by reducing the park’s elk population it will also reduce the prevalence of CWD. The effectiveness of this management action will be evaluated over the next several years to coincide with the lifespan of the disease in elk. This action is consistent with the range of options presented in the Wind Cave Elk Management Plan/ Environmental Impact Statement signed in 2009.  This is an excellent example of what federal, state and NGO’s can do in wildlife management operations, and the implementation of hunting as a management tool in our National Parks.