Grand Teton elk hunt targets 725 this year
By Mike Koshmrl, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
October 6, 2012
The smallest Grand Teton National Park elk hunt in years starts Saturday in two hunt units east of the Snake River.
The hunt, dubbed the “elk reduction program” by the National Park Service, targets 725 animals this year. Although that’s just 25 fewer than in the 2011 hunt, it indicates a long-term effort to reduce the program, Grand Teton spokeswoman Jackie Skaggs said.
“Going back to 1990, we were authorizing as many as 3,000 permits,” Skaggs said. “A lot of this has happened since [biologist] Steve Cain has been here, because he’s tried to make it all about reducing the population and distribution of elk.”
That means that this fall, for the first time ever, the park has eliminated bull tags, Skaggs said.
“The elk reduction program will totally be focused on females and calves,” she said.
Because it did nothing to slow growth of the herd, the bull hunt had been a target for critics in years past.
Grand Teton critics, most notably Jackson photographers Tim Mayo and Tom Mangelsen, have kept up their campaign against the hunt. They have problems not only with hunting in the park, but its effect on people and bears.
“This is an exceptional year because of the drought and the dangers of mixing bears, hunters, visitors and elk gut piles will be magnified,” Mayo said in an email to park superintendent Mary Gibson Scott. “Please exercise common sense and do your job protecting park visitors and our wildlife. Don’t let the arrogance you demonstrated last fall result in another mauling or death.”
Many national parks ban hunting, but Grand Teton is among those that have hunting seasons. The 1950 congressional legislation that designated Grand Teton a national park allowed the “controlled reduction” of elk in the park. Because of that, Gov. Matt Mead, Wyoming Department of Game and Fish and the U.S. Department of the Interior would have to approve ending the hunt.