Refuge seeks public input on elk management strategies

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The United States Fish & Wildlife Service has proposed new measures to reduce a population of elk at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge.

File photo: A large bull elk captured and collared at Bosque del Apache in 2010 is part of a study lasting through 2013 conducted at the refuge.

The elk population on the refuge is currently compromising the refuge’s ability to produce the grain crops used to support wintering sandhill cranes, and emergency short-term strategies are needed to reduce the elk population.

The refuge proposes to use a range of management actions to control elk. These would range from the use of non-lethal ammunition, motion lights and loud noises to move elk out of affected crop areas to the culling of elk within refuge boundaries.

In natural habitat, elk browse on a variety of vegetation; however, easily accessible sources of food, such as croplands, will be more attractive to elk. Consumption of corn by elk has reduced the refuge’s ability to provide the 1.5 million pounds of corn needed to support wintering sandhill cranes. In addition, when cranes cannot find sufficient food on the refuge, they forage for crops outside of refuge lands, which leads to crop depredation on neighboring landowners.

The draft environmental assessment for this action is available for review and comment at: www.fws.gov/southwest/refuges/newmex/bosque/. Written comments can be provided to: monica_kimbrough@fws.gov or Monica Kimbrough, Planning Team Leader, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Division of Planning, P.O Box 1306, Albuquerque, NM 87103.

Comments will be accepted until Jan. 31.

Results from this approach to managing elk, along with ongoing monitoring activities, will inform a longer-term management strategy will be included in a future refuge comprehensive conservation plan.

Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge is located in Socorro County five miles south of San Antonio and is managed by the Fish & Wildlife Service. Providing foraging and roosting habitat for wintering and migrating sandhill cranes and migratory waterbirds is the management focus of the refuge.

In addition, the refuge maintains the pristine nature of three wilderness areas.