Elk NetworkSouth Dakota Finalizes Elk Management Plan, Accepts Applications for Elk Contingency Licenses

General | September 9, 2021

Below is a news release from South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks.

Elk Contingency Licenses on Sale

The South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks (GFP) Commission approved twenty elk contingency licenses at the September GFP Commission meeting in Rapid City.

“Due to this year’s dry conditions in areas of the Black Hills, GFP used a variety of sources to help generate a recommendation for the GFP Commission to consider; including input from the Black Hills National Forest Service and the Natural Resources Conservation Service, forage model production outputs, and a decision-support tool found within the elk action plan,” stated wildlife division director, Tom Kirschenmann. “Elk contingency licenses are a management tool as a means of responding quicker to environmental conditions such as drought, like we have experienced this year.”

“The most up-to-date information and input from cooperating agencies were used in developing the department’s recommendation for the Commission to act upon,” Kirschenmann noted.

The application process for these additional antlerless elk licenses began on September 9 and additional information will follow soon for applicants. Go here to apply.

Elk Action Plan Finalized

The GFP Commission recently finalized its elk action plan for 2021-2026. It will serve as the guiding document for 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. This plan is intended to guide managers and biologists over the next five years but should be considered a working document that will be amended as new biological and social data provide opportunities to improve management of elk resources in South Dakota. Among other issues, it focuses on active forest management, grazing, population surveys and objectives, and depredation.

There are currently about 6,000 elk in the Black Hills. The winter population objective for elk is 6,000-8,000 in the Black Hills and 500-600 in Custer State Park. Find additional information here.

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation have two representatives that serve on the South Dakota Elk Stakeholder group and submitted comment regarding the plan. GFP developed science-based public/stakeholder surveys in 2020 to enhance the understanding of the social tolerance for elk in South Dakota and describe current hunter and landowner preferences for elk population objectives and management tools. This information, combined with various biological data, sets a good standard for science-based management.

RMEF has been supporting elk population/distribution research in the Black Hills for several years which assisted with the formation of the new management plan. More recently, RMEF funding helped support a study to improve population estimates with the use of game cameras.

Since 1990, RMEF and its partners completed 382 conservation and hunting heritage outreach projects in South Dakota with a combined value of more than $40.2 million. These projects protected or enhanced 119,118 acres of habitat and opened or improved public access to 11,472 acres.

(Photo source: South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks)