So when are we meeting a strikers house for the WMD hunt? State to allow hunters in national park Park's cull of the wild By Jeremy P. Meyer Denver Post Staff Writer Article Launched: 02/09/2007 12:03:05 AM MST Estes Park - State wildlife commissioners will seek to change a 78-year-old federal law so that hunters would be allowed inside Rocky Mountain National Park to manage a growing and pesky elk herd. About 3,000 elk make the park home during the year, and they are wearing out their welcome - destroying aspen groves, decimating meadows and ruining beaver ponds. In neighboring Estes Park, the problem has turned almost comical - with elk being found with Christmas lights, swings and even bicycles wrapped around their heads. "It's been interesting with some of the nonsense that goes on," said district wildlife manager Rick Spowart. "This is a difficult herd to manage." In June, federal park officials will release a plan on what they will do about the elk. It will not involve a public hunt, which is forbidden by federal law. A draft proposal released last year suggested spending up to $18 million over 20 years to cull between 200 and 700 elk a year. Park officials say the final plan will be less expensive. During their monthly meeting Thursday, state wildlife commissioners urged hunting in the park. "Culling is not hunting; it's shooting them," said Commissioner Rick Enstrom. "It's a waste of a valuable resource." The state Division of Wildlife "is willing to manage" the herd, Enstrom said. The division would be prepared to train hunters and supervise the hunt, he said. The National Park Service, instead of spending millions of dollars for the cull, could actually get hunters to pay to participate, Enstrom said. U.S. Rep. Mark Udall, D-Colo., in July asked Rocky Mountain National Park Superintendent Vaughn Baker to consider the proposal allowing a special public hunt of elk in the park. The idea was rejected, Baker said Thursday, because it would violate a 1929 law prohibiting hunting in the park. Few U.S. national parks allow hunting. "It's not an option for us," Baker said. "...We have to be concerned with visitors." Enstrom said the law was written long before elk became a Rocky Mountain National Park problem, adding that hunting is the best way to manage big game. In fact, 15 years before the law was written into the books, the animals were being reintroduced to the Estes Valley because unregulated hunting had left few elk. A herd of 50 was brought from Yellowstone National Park to the valley in 1913 and 1914. Since then, the herd has exploded in size. From 1969 to 1999, the number of elk in the valley increased from 500 to 3,000. About 100 elk are found in the town of Estes Park year-round. They have become tourist attractions, although they are also causing problems. Rob Edward, director of carnivore restoration for the conservation group Sinapu, is urging wolves be reintroduced to help keep the herd in check. That is one alternative being considered, Baker said. Edward said state polls say 70 percent of Colorado residents would support reintroduction of wolves. Park biologist Therese Johnson said wolves would help solve the problem, but because the park is so close to urban areas, their reintroduction could also cause problems and be very controversial. Staff writer Jeremy P. Meyer can be reached at 303-954-1367 or [email protected].