Elk NetworkElk Captured, Collared to Monitor for CWD

Gear 101 | December 20, 2021

Below is a news release from Wind Cave National Park.

Twenty elk in Wind Cave National Park were recently fitted with GPS (Global Positioning System)/VHF radio-telemetry collars to help monitor elk inside the park for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD).

This study, led by a U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientist, is evaluating whether it is possible to reduce the prevalence rate of CWD in the park’s elk herd by reducing herd density. Over the last several years, the park has culled 317 elk from the herd.

The recently installed collars will be used to help monitor elk movements, mortality, and habitat use as part of this CWD study across the park’s three sub-herds. This brings the total number of elk currently collared in the park to 72. The park aims to maintain the total elk population at around 250 animals with some year-to-year variability.

“We are beginning to see signs of an overall healthier herd, with larger animals and more calves,” said Park Superintendent Leigh Welling. “However, it’s too early to tell if the lower density is affecting the prevalence of CWD, but it is something we will continue monitoring in the coming years.”

The collars record the location of the elk three times a day, at different times each day, and are estimated to last five years. This is the study’s sixth year.

(Photo credit: National Park Service)