Additional elk hunting opportunities will be available to hunters in the Black Hills and Custer State Park in the fall of 2016. Based on current elk population growth, the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Commission proposed an increase in elk hunting licenses at their March meeting in Pierre.
“Back in April 2015, the five year elk management plan was formally adopted by the Commission,” stated Cathy Peterson, chair of the GFP Commission. “The five year plan serves as the guiding document for decision making and implementation of actions to ensure elk populations and their habitats are managed appropriately, addressing both biological and social tolerances, while considering the needs of all stakeholders.”
The Black Hills population goal (excluding Custer State Park and Wind Cave National Park) is 7,000 elk, ranging from 6,000 to 8,000 depending on habitat conditions. The current population estimate from recent aerial surveys is at 7,200. Population models used to assess elk in the Black Hills indicate a growing population with a projection of 7,400 elk in the winter of 2017.
In some units of the Black Hills, the objective is to increase elk while in other units, while in others the objective is to decrease elk. The Commission proposed to adjust the number of licenses available from 430 any elk and 500 antlerless elk licenses (total of 930 licenses) to 443 any elk and 1,255 antlerless elk licenses (total of 1,698 licenses). This is an overall increase of 13 any elk licenses and 755 antlerless elk licenses; with the majority of increased antlerless licenses residing in Unit 2 and 3.
The Custer State Park population goal is 800, ranging from 700 to 900 elk. Projection models estimate a stable population with approximately 450 elk in the winter of 2017. The Custer State Park elk hunting season was also proposed and would allow for 20 antlerless elk licenses in two separate time frames in an attempt to better distribute the elk north throughout the park.
“Current population goals were developed after thorough analyses of elk population data, available habitat resources on public land, private land depredation issues, and substantial input from individuals with an interest in elk management in South Dakota,” concluded Kelly Hepler, Secretary of the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks. “The foundation of the decisions to allow for additional harvest of elk stems from the elk management plan. Since we have met the population objective, we are pleased to announce that there will be more opportunities to hunt elk in South Dakota this fall.”
For more information on the elk management plan, visithttp://gfp.sd.gov/hunting/big-
game/elk/default.aspx. For more information on the 2016 elk hunting season proposals, visit http://gfp.sd.gov/agency/ commission/default.aspx.