Bugle July/August 2012 : Page 14

NAME THAT ELK COUNTRY Fifty million years ago, a receding inland sea carved a 20-mile-long chasm into the earth, creating the northern gateway to what the locals call “Pahá Sápa”. Can you guess where it is? Turn to page 17. 14 ÊUÊ BUGLE ÊUÊ&#1b;1&#1d;É1ÊÓä£Ó 2010 KENNETH WYATT / WWW.WYATTPHOTO.COM

Name That Elk Country

Fifty million years ago, a receding inland sea carved a 20-mile-long chasm into the earth, creating the northern gateway to what the locals call “Pahá Sápa”.

Spearfish Canyon, South Dakota (from page 14)

Immortalized by the winter camp scene in Kevin Costner’s film, Dances with Wolves, Spearfish Canyon is a scenic marvel. Located in Lawrence County on the northern edge of the Black Hills, a name derived from Pahá Sápa in Lakota, the canyon attracts anglers, hunters, naturalists and sightseers from all over the country. Highway 14A provides access to the deep and narrow canyon where ponderosa pine and spruce cling where they can to the walls, while aspen, birch and oak shelter Spearfish Creek.

Some 40 years before cars began rounding the bends of the canyon, the Spearfish to Deadwood rail line brought sightseers from around the globe to picnic in its shadows. The line was built at great expense in 1893, initially for transport of mining ore. But it quickly became a destination for visitors looking to sample the delights of the canyon. A traveler can see a variety of wildlife here including white-tailed and mule deer, mountain goats, eagles and bobcats. Elk haven’t been spotted in the canyon bottom in recent times, but they roam the surrounding area.

Francis Parkman, a chronicler of Oregon Trail history, referred to the Black Hills as a “hunter’s paradise.” That distinction was confirmed in 1874 during the Black Hills Expedition led by George Armstrong Custer. Unfortunately, discovery of gold brought an influx of settlers which decimated wildlife in the area—including elk.

In 1911, the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks brought 100 elk from Yellowstone National Park to the Black Hills. Additional elk were brought in from Montana and Wyoming from 1913 to 1916. By 2003 the elk population hovered around 6,000, though a directive to increase antlerless tags due to conflicts with landowners.

That, combined with losses to mountain lions and other predators, has since trimmed that number to less than 3,000 and hunting is restricted to South Dakota residents. Prior to 2003, the Black Hills herd was noted as one of the largest herds east of the Rockies.

Due to rapidly increasing development, in 2002 the Elk Foundation spearheaded the Black Hills Conservation Initiative, a coalition of state and federal agencies, private landowners and conservation groups that as of 2007 has permanently protected more than 20,000 acres and enhanced an additional 12,000.

The Elk Foundation has also been a part of on-going studies to monitor elk movement in the Black Hills to evaluate habitat use. Such studies allow for better wildlife management and assessment of negative impacts on elk herds.

The Elk Foundation has also contributed to fence replacements, restoration efforts, and the planned construction of the Sawyer Memorial Park Interpretive Trail.

Efforts like these help to ensure this area pioneers called an “island in a sea of grass” remains a home to elk for generations to come.

—Tim Kukes, Bugle Intern

Read the full article at http://mydigimag.rrd.com/article/Name+That+Elk+Country/1087338/114855/article.html.

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