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Elk group weighs public suggestions

The Cody Elk Group has completed its work. The group’s recommendations will be presented to the Cody Game and Fish office in the near future, then to the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission.
Although there are nearly 2,000 more elk in the Cody Elk herd than the population objective set by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, calf birth and survival rates are low in some areas.

There are about 7,500 elk in the Cody Elk Herd Unit, according to a slide show presented by group during an April 24 public meeting.
The population objective is 5,600, but calf recruitment is low in some areas. A population must produce young to perpetuate itself.
The Wyoming Game and Fish Department last year asked the group to find ways to sustain a healthy population by adjusting hunting regulations.
In area 55, which encompasses most of the North Fork of the Shoshone River drainage, there were 11 calves per 100 cows born in 2010. The highest in the last 27 years was 62 calves per 100 cows in 1987.
In the slide, five of the seven hunt areas comprising the Cody herd showed slumping calf recruitment interspersed with a few productive birth years.
A 50 calf per 100 cow ratio is considered a good calf recruitment rate. Recruitment is defined as the number of young that survive to breeding age in a population.
Hunt area 59 in the South Fork drainage was at 36 calves per 100 cows last year. Its high in the last 28 years was 42 calves per100 cows in 1994.
Area 58, centered around Carter and Sage creeks, was 42 per 100 in 2011, with an all-time high of 51 per 100 in 2009.
Area 55 has been declining significantly for the last 18 years, from 63 in 1987 to 13 in 2010.
About 25 people attended the Tuesday meeting, after which the Cody Elk Working Group considered opinions penned by those who attended.
Group member Steve Brock said from what he could glean, eight citizens were against, and three supported, the proposed changes the group will recommend.
One faction from the public wanted limited-quota hunting, and another wanted more hunting, said group member Chip Clouse.
Two wanted more older class bulls available, Brock said.
Taking numerous 6-7-year-old, 300 point antler score bulls is a pretty tall order, said group member Curt Bales.
Area 56, bordered by Wapiti to the north and running south past Ishawooa Creek, spiked with nearly 120 bulls taken in 2007 from a 22 year period. In 2011, 58 bulls were taken.
Area 59 saw 140 bulls harvested in 2011, compared to 30 bulls killed in 1988. Area 59 continues south from the boundary with 56, surrounding Boulder Creek and the South Fork of the Shoshone.
The elk population is growing. In the early 1900s, there were approximately 20,000 elk across the entire state. Now, Wyoming has 110,000 to 120,000 elk, Bales said.
Many of the comments opposed the group’s recommendation to shorten the general season in both area 56 and 59 from Oct. 1-21 to Oct. 1-14.
Shortening the season by one week in each area would place a lot of hunters in close proximity to one another and also reduce their bull-harvesting opportunities, he said.
“I think 14 days would be crowded,” Brock said.
The consensus was to keep the recommended reduction. However, Theresa Lineburger, the only female member of the group, voiced her concern: “I’m not convinced we did the right thing.”
Group member Tim Fagan said if the department adopts the recommendation, those suggestions could be changed in the future.
“Let’s give it a try,” Fagan said. 
Archery general licenses for any elk, except spikes, in area 60 was increased by 10 days, from Sept. 1-9 to Sept. 1-19. The group agreed to keep that recommendation.
The group also recommended increasing cow quotas in areas with excess cow elk. For example, area 61 increased from 25 any elk licenses to 50. Cow or calves were expanded by a total of 650 to 1,250.
Two hunt coordinators introduced last fall will again be employed to escort hunters on private land in areas near Meeteetse to remove surplus cows or antler-less elk.
The group recommended avoiding late-season hunts if possible.
The group did not agree to propose increasing the population objective, as was suggested by a few members of the public.
The group also disagreed with a written suggestion to keep the Cody game check station open.
Group chairman Justin Sanders said at least eight members of the public wanted more elk statistics. The group followed the suggestion to place more priority on surveys, although it will cost money.
“The elk of Wyoming are a premier resource, and we should spend money on them,” Lineburger said.
To view a list of the recommended changes and the slide show, go to http://wgfd.wyo.gov/web2011/Departments/Wildlife/pdfs/CEW_PRESENTDRAFT_0424120002106.pdf.

 

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3 comments

  • posted by Mike Hirsch

    May 13, 2012 5:21 am

    The Cody Elk Working Group was not a waste of time - but it did show the sportsmen of Wyoming where the power lays for the making of herd management decisions. The final decision will be made by the WG&F dept. and I hope that limited quota hunting will be present in every hunting unit discussed - if not the herd numbers will fall just as the Clarks Fork herd unit has. What was learned from the Clarks Fork elk working group was - management did not start the limited quota hunting seasons soon enough. Unmanaged large predators are a big problem for the ugulate herds. This October one of those large predator species will be under new management of the WG&F Dept. It was a long time coming and I will still wait and see what federal policy will jump up at the last minute to cancel out these hunts. As for bull elk management thru age class Curt Bales did not get the right picture - it was presented to manage for 7-8 year old bull average age of harvest - never was it stated anything about antler size or score from sportsmen - that idea came from outfitters at the begining of the working group meetings. The Cody check station will gather teeth from bulls presented for accurate age dating. When this data is collected it will be shocking to the outfitting industry to see the age class of harvested bulls under 4 years old in some hunt areas. Micromanagement needs to be done in hunt areas for the years to come in order to preserve the elk resources we have left. A large reduction in the Meeeteetse "antlerless" elk herd this fall will be devastating to the long range goals of a balenced elk herd as these are migratory elk traveling over 25 miles thru several different hunt areas in some cases.

  • posted by Chris

    May 07, 2012 10:39 am

    Wolves are the best elk population managers to ever exist. Everything seemed to handle itself just fine for tens of thousands of years until humans showed up and decided they should run the place.

  • posted by Dewey

    May 03, 2012 9:42 am

    As if ONLY hunters , outfitters , and ranchers should have all the say on Elk management---NOT!

    Therefore, work group = worthless. It was just a convenient facade for G & F to take some weight off their own imploded management of herds, which has not worked over the long haul...

    ... and will not work until this State starts managing predatory animals as also being wildlife.

    I guess that is why they are called Wyoming GAME and Fish and not WILDLIFE and Fish. By the way , when human hunting is your primary game management tool, and the herds are managed for something that resembles " put and take" harvest like trout --- in other words annual unsustainably high counts --- then your whole management strategy is off the road into the weeds. The so-called North American big game conservation model has nopt worked for that exact reason : no allowance for essential predators and always aiming for high game counts regardless. Nature does not work that way . And THAT is why your elk herds are so out of balance.

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