FORT COLLINS, Colorado. – More than a decade after Rocky Mountain National Park used snipers to kill elk to protect the park from an overpopulation of the iconic animal, another national park in Colorado is using the same strategy.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife said it is looking for trained snipers to take down elk in Great Sand Dunes National Park and National Wildlife Refuges in the San Luis Valley in southern Colorado in the part of an elk dispersal project that is expected to continue until February 2023.
Rocky Mountain National Park used trained volunteers to cull 52 elk in the park from 2009 to 2011 as part of its 20-year elk and vegetation management plan launched in 2009, according to the spokesperson for the park, Kyle Patterson. The plan also implemented other methods to reduce the impact of elk on the landscape.
Patterson said the elk cull by shooting was halted in February 2011 because the park reached its population goal and has been “at or below the overwintering elk population goal since that time.” She said about 100 elk winter in the park, 200 winter in Estes. Park and 300 to 500 elk winter in the Estes Valley. Some of these elk migrate to lower elevations in the winter, particularly west of Loveland.
Colorado has the largest elk herd in the world with approximately 300,000 animals.
Shooting skills ‘difficult even for the most seasoned elk hunters’
Colorado Parks and Wildlife isn’t looking for just any hunter; the agency said it was looking for exceptional shooters.
Those hoping to be selected must complete an application process, and those selected from this pool will be required to pass a shooting test. The shooting portion requires hitting 12-inch by 14-inch targets, the size of an elk’s vital organs, at 200 and 300 yards three times in a row without fail within three minutes.
“This qualification has proven difficult for even the most experienced elk hunters,” Rick Basagoitia, wildlife officer for the national wildlife agency, said in a press release. “This standard is probably the minimum standard allowed given the difficulty of the job. We need volunteers to do this.”
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Applicants must be at least 18 years old and are required to pass a background check and sign volunteer agreements. They will operate under the direction of a Dispersal Coordinator. Volunteers will be contacted to schedule the shooting qualification after submitting their application.
Those selected will have a voluntary commitment of up to two days. Volunteers who take an antlerless elk are allowed to own the carcass.
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