Two helicopters hovering over parts of Wind Cave National Park Friday herded at least 200 elk from Wind Cave National Park into adjoining Custer State Park and nearby national forest.
The cooperative project between Wind Cave and the state Game, Fish & Parks Department was aimed at pushing up to 500 elk out of the park, which is part of a plan to reduce the herd from the 900 to 950 level prior to the drive.
But some elk didn't want to leave Wind Cave, at least not Friday.
today in an effort to drive hundreds of elk into nearby Custer State Park and adjoining national forest.
The elk drive is aimed at reducing the elk herd in Wind Cave, which numbers 900 to 950 animals. That’s more than twice the number that officials at the federal park want to maintain, based on available habitat in the park.
The helicopter crews from Alaska-based Quicksilver Air Inc., have been in the Black Hills since the middle of February working for the state Game, Fish & Parks Department on a comprehensive aerial survey of elk in the Black Hills. The crew will return to the survey work after the elk drive today is finished.
GF&P regional wildlife manager John Kanta of Rapid City said the goal of today’s drive is to move up to 500 elk out of the park, with many going into Custer Park to help build up the elk population there. Kanta and Custer State Park resource specialist Chad Lehman are riding in the helicopters to direct the drive, which will push elk toward special gates and stretches of fence that have been removed the drive.
Some roads in the parks and a portion of Highway 87 will be closed for periods today because of the drive.
GF&P is not allowing media in the area and discourages people from trying to witness the drive, which could pose a safety threat to visitors or the elk.
The helicopters are being housed at night in garages at the GF&P shop area at Outdoor Campus-West in northwest Rapid City. They land on and lift off from a parking lot between the garages and can be seen and heard coming and going early and late in the day.