Dorgan’s Proposed Folly — Elk Hunting in Theodore Roosevelt National Park

ElkDeadinfieldToday’s NYT has an editorial on a proposed elk hunt in Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota.  The herd has grown to over 900 animals since 1985, when elk were reintroduced to the region.  Apparently, a herd of that size stresses the ecosystem so Senator Dorgan has proposed a “common sense” solution of allowing elk hunting in the park.

This is a remarkably bad idea for all sorts of reasons, not least because hunting is prohibited in national parks (with the sole statutory exception of Grand Teton).  It also reflects the tired (and wrong) notion that hunting represents an ecologically sound management practice.  It does not.  Hunters want trophies and consequently kill the strongest animals — precisely those whose genes should be transmitted to future generations.  Predators, on the other hand, cull herds in a way that is ecosystemically beneficial.  They prey on the weakest in the herd, reducing its numbers while strengthening its gene pool.

The Times editorial rightly condemns Senator Dorgan’s proposal but unfortunately endorses using professional sharpshooters instead.  That the predator option (can you say “wolves?”) remains off the table is an unfortunate commentary on our ongoing national myopia.

–David Cassuto