Research Wildlife Biologist
Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
8711 37th Street SE
Michael J Anteau
The elk herd that currently inhabits the South Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park (THRO) originated in 1985, when the National Park Service (NPS) translocated 47 animals from Wind Cave National Park. The reintroduction was undertaken to restore a culturally and ecologically important species to its native range, but was initially opposed by the State of North Dakota because area landowners feared that elk might escape the park and cause damage to crops and fences. To alleviate this concern, the NPS agreed to regulate elk numbers at levels that “do not unduly interfere” with livestock grazing or agriculture, and to generally resolve conflicts in favor of existing land uses (Memorandum of Understanding 1540-5-0001)....
In 1997, chronic wasting disease (CWD) was discovered in a captive elk herd occupying lands adjacent to Wind Cave National Park (WICA). In 2000, WICA became the first National Park outside the endemic area of Colorado and Wyoming to confirm the presence of CWD in a wild elk. Prior to 1997, elk numbers at WICA were controlled by periodically translocating excess animals to other sites. Termination of the control program in 1997 to prevent the spread of CWD is likely to result in high elk densities, with undesirable consequences for other park resources, relations with neighboring landowners, and the incidence and spread of CWD. Due to anticipated effects of growing elk populations at WICA and Theodore Roosevelt National...
Effects of large herbivores on park vegetation and other wildlife are a priority management concern for Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota. Effects of elk are of particular concern because the population currently exceeds management objectives by >2 times and has historically increased by 20-36% annually (Sargeant, G. A., and M. W. Oehler. 2007. Dynamics of newly established elk populations. Journal of Wildlife Management 71:1141-1148). Knowledge of elk distribution and its relation to landscape features (e.g., vegetation, topography, roads and trails, centers of human activity) is a pre-requisite for 1)assessing effects OF elk on other park resources (e.g., for targeting sampling of range vegetation)...