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Published November 01, 2013, 08:56 AM

Teddy Roosevelt park trails closed for elk project

MEDORA, N.D. (AP) — The National Park Service is periodically closing some backcountry trails in Theodore Roosevelt National Park as officials continue work to thin the elk herd there.

MEDORA, N.D. (AP) — The National Park Service is periodically closing some backcountry trails in Theodore Roosevelt National Park as officials continue work to thin the elk herd there.

The trails in the park's South Unit will be closed on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays during the project. Roads, overlooks and the Cottonwood Campground are not affected. Front-country trails in the South Unit will remain open, and the park's North Unit and Elkhorn Ranch Unit will not be affected.

"We don't anticipate any conflicts between the elk management team and the public," Superintendent Valerie Naylor said in a statement. "However, safety is always our top concern, so we are closing the backcountry for three days per week when elk removals are taking place."

The period will stretch from Nov. 5 to Dec. 5, park spokeswoman Eileen Andes told The Bismarck Tribune.

The park in the western North Dakota Badlands is in the maintenance phase of an elk management plan that included large reduction efforts in 2010 and 2011 in which nearly 900 elk were killed. The herd had grown to more than 1,200 animals, when the ideal size for the park is between 100 and 400. The herd size is estimated now at just under 200 animals, Andes told the Tribune.

The special managed hunts in 2010 and 2011 involved volunteer shooters. The operation since has involved only Park Service staff. Sixty-nine elk were killed last year, and about 40 are being killed this year. Meat from the animals is donated to American Indian tribes and the Sportsmen Against Hunger program, which helps food pantries around the state.

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