Park Service says hunters are switching to non-lead ammo
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — First you feed ‘em, than you shoot ‘em.
That seems to be the theory of game management in Wyoming, where Grand Teton National Park officials announced the Oct. 8 start of the annual elk reduction program mandated by Congress when the park was created in 1950.
The legislation directs Grand Teton NP to jointly develop this annual program with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, and for the Governor of Wyoming and Secretary of the Interior Department to approve the plan.
Biologists and administrators from both agencies have reviewed available biological data and concluded that the 2012 program is necessary to keep the Jackson elk herd at or near objective and maintain a desired summer distribution of elk throughout their natural range.
On the other hand, the park says the hunt is needed because there’s an annual winter feeding pogram in the National Elk Refuge and in the upper Gros Ventre drainage. That feeding effort sustains high numbers of elk with unnaturally low mortality rates — and the majority of those elk then use migration routes through Grand Teton National Park.
According to a press release from the park — which makes no mention of wolves — the park’s elk reduction program differs somewhat from other elk hunting programs in the region. The use of archery, hand guns, or other non-center fire ammunition rifles is not permitted, nor is the use of artificial elk calls.
Hunters, regardless of age, are required to carry a hunter education card, and to carry and have immediately accessible bear spray as a non-lethal deterrent for use during potential bear encounters. Information packets accompanying each permit warn hunters of the risk of bear encounters and offer tips on how to minimize the probability of human-bear conflicts.
For the past four years, packets have also contained information encouraging hunters to use non-lead ammunition. Grand Teton managers, along with National Elk Refuge and Wyoming Game and Fish Department officials request that hunters make a voluntary switch to non-lead ammunition to support quality hunting practices that will benefit the long-term conservation of all wildlife. In the past three years, the use of non-lead ammunition has increased and park managers are hoping the trend continues.
Each fall, park rangers intensively monitor and patrol elk reduction areas to ensure compliance with rules and regulations, interpret the elk reduction program to visitors, and provide hunters with information on local conditions associated with this wildlife management policy.