The National Park Service (NPS), working with South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks (GFP), is again seeking skilled volunteers to reduce its elk herd at Wind Cave National Park (Wind Cave) to help address the high rate of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in the park. Eight trained volunteers are needed – four each week for the first two weeks in February. The volunteers will be selected through a lottery system managed by GFP. After qualifying, selected volunteers will work with NPS staff to reduce the number of elk inside the park.
Elk will be removed in order to maintain the population at the desired target inside the park. This action is consistent with the range of options presented in the Wind Cave Elk Management Plan/ Environmental Impact Statement signed in 2009.
“We are pleased to continue our partnership with GFP on this project,” said Vidal Dávila, Wind Cave Superintendent. “This study continues to provide new information on CWD prevalence that will inform wildlife managers throughout our agency and the state regarding the long-term health of the species.”
Every animal taken during this operation will be tested for CWD. The NPS is partnering with GFP to distribute elk meat to Feeding South Dakota, an organization dedicated to eliminating hunger in the state. Also, volunteers who work an entire week on this operation will be eligible to receive a portion of elk meat. Only meat with a ‘not-detected’ test result for CWD will be distributed to volunteers or Feeding South Dakota.
Four different volunteers will be needed for this operation during each of the two weeks beginning February 3. Two teams will be formed, each consisting of an NPS team leader and two volunteers.
Anyone wishing to volunteer must submit an online application through their license profile at the GFP website, gfp.sd.gov. Volunteers will be selected through a lottery. Applications will be accepted from January 3, 2020, to January 10, 2020. Only online applications will be accepted, no paper applications will be allowed for this project. Applicants must be at least 18 years of age, a South Dakota resident, have no felony record and be willing to undergo a background check.
Volunteers who are selected will be contacted by NPS personnel. Volunteers will be required to demonstrate advanced firearms proficiency and physical fitness to participate. Each volunteer will be required to hit an 8-inch target at 200 yards a minimum of three times out of five shots using their own firearm and non-lead ammunition. During the week, volunteers will also be required to hike up to 10 miles per day over rough terrain and carry packs weighing up to 70 pounds in winter weather conditions.
(Photo source: Wind Cave National Park)