Elk Management

February 20, 2009 by  

By Doug Leier

Elk management practices and elk hunting seasons are changing in ND

Elk management practices and elk hunting seasons are changing in ND

Science and wildlife management are not stationary. Continuous research and fact gathering result in adjustments to management strategies and through this evolving process hunters directly see changes in hunting seasons.

This year’s North Dakota elk season is a good example. Just since 2006, the State Game and Fish Department has nearly doubled the number of elk licenses available in the lottery drawing. Last fall some of the seasons were extended by special proclamation. This year, the Department is proposing to eliminate the August seasons that have been part of elk management for many years.

With so many changes, hunters still looking for their once-in-a-lifetime elk license will likely have a lot of questions. Here’s a rundown on a few of the more likely questions, with answers provided by Randy Kreil, the Game and Fish Department’s wildlife division chief.

Why is there such a dramatic increase in the number of elk licenses in E3 and E4 for the 2008 season?

Elk numbers continue to grow at an amazing rate inside Theodore Roosevelt National Park, and more elk are coming out and staying out of the park. The National Park Service is currently working on a plan to reduce numbers in the park, but the implementation of whatever plan they might choose is several years off.  Therefore, in an effort to use this resource and reduce the possibility of elk depredation problems on surrounding private land, the Department is dramatically increasing not only elk license numbers but also the length of the season.

There is an increasing trend in game farms complicating elk patterns, thus the need for an expanded elk hunting season

There is an increasing trend in game farms complicating elk patterns, thus the need for an expanded elk hunting season

Why is the August hunting season being eliminated?

The August hunting season was first implemented as a way to harvest elk that were comingout of TRNP, but returned to the park before the traditional October elk season. The August season was effective and elk hunting opportunities and harvest were fairly good. Over the past several years as the TRNP elk population has grown, elk behavior has changed and the number of animals leaving and not returning to the park has increased. This results in more opportunity in the months following August. In addition, there has always been a concern about the hot weather during August and all the problems that come with hunting and retrieving a big game animal at a time when warm to hot temperatures are common. In 2006, an October time period was added and in 2007 additional time periods spanning November and December was also added. Elk hunting opportunities available September through December negated the need to have an August season.

Why are lottery license holders allowed to hunt in either unit after the first three days of the September and October season openers?

Hunters are restricted to the unit on their license for the first three days of the September and October seasons to make sure hunting pressure in Unit E4, which is directly adjacent to TRNP, is not too high. The unit is relatively small and allowing all license holders to be in that area during the opening weekends would lead to problems.

Licenses remaining after the lottery will be issued on a first come, first served basis. These will be once-in-a-lifetime licenses. Are you anticipating there will be licenses remaining?

There is a chance that cow (antlerless) elk licenses may remain following the lottery.  The thinking behind the first-come, first-served option is that if someone wanted an antlerless elk license they have their chance to apply in the lottery, either as a first or second choice. If licenses remain, Game and Fish will announce details on how the first-come, first-serve process will work.

Unit E5 is a new unit that encompasses most of North Dakota outside traditional elk range. Why is this area open to all lottery license holders? 

Over the past several years the number of instances where wild elk have been attracted to farmed elk operations has increased. It is critically important for both wild elk management and the farmed elk industry that wild elk are not allowed to have contact or mingle with farmed elk. The first course of action in these situations is to haze the wild elk away from the farmed elk enclosures. Should hazing or exclusion by double or electric fencing not work, then the wild elk must be removed. In the past, department personnel have killed some of these animals, while in other instances we have used the legislatively authorized method of drawing a name from the unsuccessful applicant list and allowed that person to kill the elk.


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