RAPID CITY, S.D. — A national park about 50 miles south of Rapid City is seeking volunteers to hunt its elk herd in an effort to reduce the population and combat a deadly disease.

The South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks Department and the National Park Service have teamed up to reduce Wind Cave National Park’s elk population and address its high rate of chronic wasting disease, the Rapid City Journal (http://bit.ly/2d3spUY ) reported.

The operation will include about 50 volunteers working in teams with park officials to shoot the elk. The hunt is scheduled to begin in mid-November.

Volunteers will be chosen through an online lottery system and will work in the park for a 5-day work week. They’re required to be skilled shooters and be able to hike 10 miles with a 70-pound backpack.

“As people fill out the application, they have to understand that this is difficult work that includes several hard days in the field under strenuous hiking and weather conditions,” Wind Cave Superintendent Vidal Dávila said in a press release.

Park officials estimate their elk population is roughly 550, but the population target for that area is only 232 to 475 elk.

A recent U.S. Geological Survey estimates about 9.5 percent of the park’s elk population has chronic wasting disease.

“Our scientists believe the density of the park’s elk population and CWD are related,” Dávila said. “We will be following the herd’s health over the next several years to determine if the reduced density of elk lowers the prevalence of CWD in the park. Every animal taken during this operation will be tested for CWD.”


Information from: Rapid City Journal, http://www.rapidcityjournal.com