Wind Cave National Park Closes Backcountry for Elk Management Operation


Backcountry areas in Wind Cave National Park will be closed intermittently this January and February for management actions to reduce CWD in the park’s elk herd. (NPS Photo)

Backcountry areas of Wind Cave National Park will be closed to hikers from January 17 to February 17, twenty-four hours a day except on weekends. This closure will allow park staff to undertake a management operation to reduce the presence of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in the park’s Rocky Mountain Elk population.

Elk will be removed to maintain the population at the park’s desired target level. This action is consistent with the range of options presented in the Wind Cave Elk Management Plan/Environmental Impact Statement signed in 2009.

Park resource management staff will be taking approximately 40 animals in affected areas of the park during this time. Every animal taken will be tested for CWD. Meat from animals testing negative for CWD will then be donated to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

For the safety of park visitors, the park’s backcountry will be closed to allow for the safe removal of animals through this selective reduction of herd density. Backcountry areas will be open on weekends, and the park’s Red Valley and Highland Creek Roads will remain open the entire time.

This operation is part of a long-range study being conducted with the USGS to determine if lower elk density levels correlate to lower CWD prevalence rates. This information will help inform federal and state wildlife managers regarding the long-term health of the species.