Buckle up folks, a standoff ! Rob Edward of WildEarth Guardians opines on Rocky Mountain National Park’s (RMNP) overabundance of elk, hoping to jump start a conversation about wolf restoration in the wider ecosystem including Colorado – as opposed to guns. Vaughn Baker, superintendent of RMNP says it won’t work. Both featured in Sunday’s Denver Post:
Wolf reintroduction: Guns aren’t the answer to culling elk – Rob Edward, Carnivore Recovery Program Director for WildEarth Guardians
Early this year, officials at Rocky Mountain National Park devised a plan to shoot as many as 100 cow elk within the boundaries of the park. They are taking this dramatic step because the park’s elk have grown too numerous and, more importantly, too sedentary. As a result, elk are browsing aspen and willow to the brink of extinction, leaving biologically important streamside areas trashed and impoverished.
Park biologists spent years studying the decline of the park’s wetland plants, and concluded that the elimination of wolves during the early 1900s had allowed the elk population to become so sedentary they could simply browse the plants to the ground. Notably, scientists discovered that the restoration of wolves to Yellowstone National Park in 1995 dramatically improved the health of young aspen and willow trees, pointing the way to an eloquent solution for Rocky’s lazy elk woes.
Wolf reintroduction: It won’t work here like in Yellowstone – Vaughn Baker, superintendent of Rocky Mountain National Park.
In an ideal world, Rocky Mountain National Park would contain an intact ecosystem with all its pieces present. However, the park is not a complete ecosystem, and native predators — including wolves and grizzly bears — have long been missing. As a result, the vegetation and other species in the park suffer because of an abundance of elk.
But reintroducing wolves into Rocky Mountain National Park is not the immediate answer.