The annual Grand Teton National Park Elk Management Reduction Program opens on Saturday, November 5. This year, the National Park Service (NPS) has issued 475 hunting permits.
Congress first authorized the elk reduction program in 1950 with legislation that expanded the boundaries of Grand Teton National Park. Each year, the NPS and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) partner to determine if a hunt is needed and, if so, how many hunting permits to issue. In recent years, the number of permits has ranged from 350 to 600.
The Grand Teton National Park herd is part of the Jackson Elk Herd, which is one of the largest elk herds in the country. “The need for the program is based on the status of the herd,” explains the NPS. “[That] includes the estimated herd size and composition and the number of elk on supplemental feed in the National Elk Refuge.”
Supplemental winter feeding of the Jackson herd at the National Elk Refuge near Jackson, Wyoming, began in the early 1900s and continues today. The practice has become more controversial in recent years as Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) has spread across the Wyoming landscape. Each spring, the 11,000-strong Jackson Elk Herd disperses across a wide range that includes Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks, the Teton Wilderness, the Gros Ventre Mountain Range, and private land along the Snake River. The goal of the elk reduction program is to support elk management in Grand Teton National Park while minimizing the species’ effect on other park resources and park visitors. The hunt is limited to a small section of the park known as Hunt Area 75. The much larger Hunt Area 79, which had been open during the program prior to 2018, remains closed this year to limit pressure on northern migratory and resident elk.
The program’s harvest is currently restricted to cows and calves. The use of archery, handguns, and other non-center-fire ammunition rifles is not permitted, nor is the use of artificial elk calls. Hunters are also required to carry bear spray and, if successful, must provide lymph node samples from their kills for CWD testing. Those interested in participating in future elk reduction hunts in Grand Teton National Park should contact WGFD.
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