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Parks could allow allow elk hunt

WASHINGTON - The National Park Service appears to have the authority to allow elk hunting in western North Dakota's Theodore Roosevelt National Park, congressional researchers say.

The nonpartisan Congressional Research Service said in a letter to Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., that federal law allows "authorized agents" of the National Park Service to thin animal herds. That means qualified private hunters with authorization from the agency could be used to help control the elk population in southwestern North Dakota national park.

The agency has been considering options to reduce elk numbers in the south unit of the park, where the animals are overpopulated. North Dakota lawmakers, including Dorgan and Republican Gov. John Hoeven, have been pressuring Park Service officials to allow private citizens to hunt elk instead of taxpayer-funded sharpshooters.

The Park Service has not said publicly whether it will support the idea. Agency officials in Washington and at the park said discussions are still ongoing and no decision will be made until the end of the year. Elk have multiplied rapidly in the park because there are few natural predators. Hunting is not allowed inside the park, and the animals' winter survival and reproduction rates have been good. The practice of shipping them elsewhere stopped in 2003 because of fears of chronic wasting disease.

Elk were reintroduced in the park, which covers about 70,000 acres, in 1985. The park can sustain about 360 elk, but officials estimate between 750 elk and 900 elk are there now.

Dorgan, who has introduced legislation that would allow elk hunting in the park, said he has sent the report to the Park Service.

"We need to manage this herd in a way that preserves the integrity of our national park, but also protects taxpayer dollars," he said.

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The public should be able to hunt these animals instead of the goverment paying some one to come in and slaughter these animals. i would pay state fees and tag fees to hunt these animals. so it would be a win-win deal. They receive money instead of paying money and the animals get thinned out.
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