Cutback in elk hunting licenses could be coming in South Dakota

RAPID CITY, S.D. — South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks commissioners are considering a proposal to decrease elk hunting licenses in the Black Hills.

The proposal would lower the number of licenses available for both any elk and antlerless elk for all of the Black Hills over the next two years, the Rapid City Journal reported. The agency would decrease licenses to 425 any elk and 700 anterless elk, from the 443 any elk and 1,150 anterless elk licenses available last year.

“Our current population objective for the Black Hills is 6,000 elk. For the winter of 2018, we estimate that we’d have approximately 6,900 elk,” said John Kanta, GF&P regional terrestrial resources supervisor. “We look at what will happen to the population with that current license allocation, and it showed that we’d have a declining population and would put us more at that lower end, closer to 6,000. What we’d like to do is stabilize that population and get it right around to 7,000.”

Kanta said there were more than 450 anterless elk licenses issued last year because the Black Hills elk population has been more than 7,000 in the past few years.

“We were putting a lot of pressure on that population through hunter harvest, and that was intentional,” he said. “You could say we achieved our goal, we brought the population down to around 7,000, and now we’re hoping to maintain that population.”

Kanta said the proposal intends to keep a high female population in order to maintain population numbers at a manageable level.

He said the license reduction might not come as welcome news to hunters, but he thinks they’ll understand it’s good for the population.

The department will vote on the proposal April 5.

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