National Park Service Explains Potential Elk Management Plan to People in Newton County

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To help restore the number of elk in the region, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC) released more than 100 Rocky Mountain elk in Newton County in the 1980s.

Now, 30 years later, the number of elk is growing, and becoming a problem.

“The populations of these animals will continue to increase without any kind of predation unless there’s some kind of outside influence,” Buffalo National River Resource Program Manager Chuck Bitting, said.

So the National Park Service and the AGFC came up with a possible plan.

“Reduce elk populations in the park,” Bitting said. “Primarily that portion that’s in the Boxley Valley from Ponca upstream.”

That would mean allowing elk hunting in Boxley Valley, which is currently not allowed.

That hunting would be managed by the AGFC.

People who live in that area are dealing firsthand with the problem.

“The elk have also been known to get into gardens and graze around the gardens,” Bitting said.

There’s also the issue with tourists coming to look at the elk.

“Sometimes there’s cars on both sides of the highway. Kids running back and forth people running back and forth. It’s not very safe,” he added.

They also want to take out sick elk who may have chronic wasting disease.

State leaders are asking the public for input.

“They’ve been here since 1981 throughout the Buffalo River Valley, and we’ve got a certain amount that are here in Boxley Valley,” said Cindy McWilliams, who lives in the county. “And I just hate to see them you know eventually take them out 20 at a time.”

Some people who attended the meeting say they don’t want their elk to be picked off.

“You go down there and shoot them it’s like shooting a dog in the backyard. They’re not scared of anything,” McWilliams said.

They argue even if the number of elk are reduced.

“The tourists are still going to come and see them. It’s still going to be a problem,” McWilliams said.

Bitting said because of the law and the issue of chronic wasting disease, the elk can’t be relocated.

Now the National Park Service will have to decide on the future of elk in the area.

“We try to make good decisions, but when we get the public’s input we can make better decisions,” Bitting said.

The public comment period is open until April 1.

If you would like to comment, click here

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