rapidcityjournal.com reports that Wind Cave National Park biological science technician Duane Weber had a spot of radio collar-related bother on Monday. “The collar, which is part of an elk study, was nearing the end of its active life but had failed to disconnect from the elk’s neck on radio command.” Shoot it right? Shoot the elk, remove the collar, get the data. But make sure you shoot it with a tranquilizer dart because . . . hurting elks is not politically correct for a fed, even if he works in South Dakota. (As evidenced by the article’s apologetic tone.) So “Weber spent Thursday on foot in an unsuccessful hunt with a tranquilizer gun, the solution preferred by park officials. He needed to get within 35 yards or so to have a good dart shot, however, and didn’t come within 100 yards.” Shoot it right? Shoot the elk with a gun, remove the collar, get the data . . .
Using a [30-.06] rifle Friday, Weber shot the elk at between 100 yards and 200 yards. Even then, it wasn’t easy, said Greg Schroeder, chief of natural resources for the 33,851-acre park.
“It took him most of the day to get in the right spot and finally figure out which elk it was,” Schroeder said. “There were other elk around, and I think four with radio collars. It was a long process for Duane to figure out which elk he was listening to.”
Weber used slight differences in sound transmitted by the other collars compared the one that was supposed to have disconnected to help identify the elk he wanted. And he confirmed the right animal by noting its head movement, which exposed the antenna and produced a slightly stronger signal.
“He was able to listen and watch enough to be confident he had the right one,” Schroeder said.
It turned out he did. And soon park personnel will download two years worth of GPS information on movement by the elk. They also will take tooth, blood and other samples from the elk for research purposes, allowing the rest of the carcass to decompose naturally.
No elk meat for the guys, then. But there’s always tomorrow. Or not.
The elk was one of 389 pushed out of Wind Cave by helicopters last March in an effort to reduce the size of the herd. It was also one of about 100 elk that managed to get back in to the park from adjoining Custer State Park through a weak spot in the fence.