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CASH Courier > 2001 Fall Issue

Selected Articles from our newsletter

The C.A.S.H. Courier

From the Fall 2001 Issue

ELK INTRODUCTION INTO THE CATSKILLS?

HORRIBLE AND SAD, BUT LEGAL.
A pathetic individual who calls himself "Yeah" sent this photo to Wildlife Watch.  Do you want this demented Neanderthal in your woods, around your wildlife?

Having attended one of the meetings held to "reintroduce" elk to the Catskill region, I can say that the presentation is deceitful on so many levels that it’s hard to count the ways.

A typical publication put out by the Elk Foundation is titled: Elk Hunting Secrets: 239 Tips and Tactics. It’s clear that this alleged "reintroduction" is simply another hunting scheme.

The agency that is being asked to make the decision is the Bureau of Wildlife (BOW) of the DEC. BOW is in the hunting business. Wildlife managers pay their salaries out of hunting license fees; and their management projects are paid for from firearms, ammunition, and bow and arrow excise taxes. Is it any wonder that they will do their best to create more targets (living beings) for sport killing? BOW’s goal is to generate increasing interest in hunting and create "hunting opportunity." Their pretense at being a neutral department, not having a vested interest in the outcome of the elk introduction, is trickery. Far from basing decisions on "public demand" and "science," they simply analyze the hunting revenue pros and cons. Should the introduction of elk cut into the bread and butter deer hunting profits, it will be nixed. If on the other hand it works to attract more people to the bloody activity of hunting, and if there is no biological or environmental conflict with white-tailed deer hunting, then it will pass. The only public opinion they are responsive to is that of the hunters who represent less than 4% of the population, despite the fact that wildlife legally belongs to all the people of the state.

The proposal to start with a herd of 100 elk is deceptive, as it surely will not end there. In 1976 Colorado elk numbered 98,000, nine years later the population jumped to 135,000. Don’t forget that hunters wiped out white-tailed deer not terribly long ago, and thanks to BOW’s efforts at overpopulating white-tailed deer through hunting, there is a population in NY that we are told is close to one million and has to be heavily hunted.

Elk are quite different from white-tailed deer and their unique ways may not always be compatible with developed surroundings. Naturalist Hope Ryden was commissioned by National Geographic to study coyotes in the wild. She lived in Yellowstone Park for two years. In her book, God’s Dog, she describes a typical elk migration thusly: "Suddenly, as I climbed a small rise, I thought I was witnessing elk resurrection day. At least five thousand Cervus Canadensis [elk] had gathered in the valley, and in the fading light I could see scores more streaming down from surrounding slopes and feeding into the milling herd. Along the periphery of this swirling mass, bulls were pacing. … It would have been suicidal to try to walk through, along, or around this volatile barrier of animals, whose primordial urge to be on the move was so evident. Their tension was electric, and in such a mood the slightest disturbance might spook them into a stampede. Some were already agitating to be under way, their shrill whistles and loud barks evoking answering cries from various parts of the herd. …Only a fool or a saint would have ventured to walk through that teeming river of animals, which at any moment threatened to flow swiftly in any direction."

In Restoring America’s Wildlife published by the U.S. Department of Interior in praise of hunting and restoration, it describes elk as migratory, gregarious animals, congregating in herds of several thousand on the winter range. Unlike white-tailed deer, elk move from summer range areas in high elevations to winter ranges at lower elevations, and the migrations or stampedes can number in the thousands of animals.

The Elk Foundation claimed elk wouldn’t compete with white-tailed deer because they eat grasses, yet the Dept. of Interior said the food habits of elk are extremely varied. They feed on a much wider variety of plant material than white-tailed deer. The DOI wrote: "Throughout their [elk] range they consume 142 species of herbs, ferns, and lichens; 77 species of grasses and grass-like species, and 111 species of shrubs and trees. They thrive on shrubby browse plants." If you think white-tailed deer are doing a good job on garden plantings, crops, and endangered plants, wait till the elk get here with their voracious appetites. The fact that they prefer grasses is an obvious competition with livestock, causing severe human-elk conflicts out west where elk damage haystacks and fences.

Further, the rut period can be a dangerous time for elk and people in the woods. A bull in rut will thrash trees and fighting can lead to serious injury.

Just how is the forest to be managed for elk? Out west it’s by "prescribed burns" where forests are deliberately burned to create more diversity of plant life to benefit primarily hunted species. We can expect that fire will play a greater role in management of land for elk here also. This is a terrifying thought. One of the worst forest fires in the west was caused by "fire management."

Elk weigh between 700-800 pounds on average; compare that to deer that weigh from 75-120 lbs. There is no doubt that an elk –car collision will result in a human fatality.

Finally, there is grave concern about Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in elk. It is the wildlife equivalent of "mad cow disease." The brain turns to Swiss cheese. CWD takes ten years to manifest and there is no way to test for CWD in live animals, yet the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is saying that this is a "clean" stock. It was reported that several hunters have already died from the human equivalent (Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease) after eating elk flesh.

The elk out west live in over 140 million acres of forest, much of which is national forest and public land. There are only 250,000 acres in the Catskill Park area designated as "forever wild." While the Catskill Park boasts 600,000 acres, much of it is developed with restaurants, houses, resorts, and towns.

A good analogy to an elk introduction here would be a tiger introduction into your home. If you think your little cat scratches furniture, oy yoy yoy what you’re in for.

I feel that our organization is in a peculiar position to have to advocate against the introduction of elk, but we do that for the sake of the future of the species, the individual animals who will ultimately suffer, and for the horrendous human-animal conflicts that will undoubtedly occur in the not too distant future.

It’s sad for us to say that "No, there is no longer any place for the elk in New York." If the elk scheme is not stopped before it starts, there will be years of hell to pay in the future.

Please give us a break, give the elk a break, give the farmers a break, and give the gardeners a break. For those who really want to view elk and not shoot them, please visit them out west.

Return to Fall 2001 Issue

 
 

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