Arkansas elk population’s growth cause for concern

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NEWTON COUNTY, Ark. (KY3) – Wildlife officials in northern Arkansas say there are too many elk roaming the countryside. 

The state is asking the public for help finding a solution. 

To help restore the number of elk in the region, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission released more than 100 Rocky Mountain elk in Newton County in the 80’s.

Now, 30 years later, the elk population 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,” explains Chuck Bitting, Natural Resource Program Manager at Buffalo National River.

So, the National Park Service and Arkansas Game & Fish Commission came up with a possible plan.

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

That would mean allowing elk hunting in Boxley Valley – which is currently not the case. 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,” says Cindy McWilliams, Newton County Resident.

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,” she continues.

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 and I just hate to see them you know eventually take them out 20 at a time,” says McWilliams.

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,” she says.

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,” says McWilliams.

The National Park Service will now 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 says.

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