- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 9, 2016

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) - South Dakota’s Game, Fish and Parks Department will issue an additional 50 cow elk hunting licenses this year because of drought.

The move is part of a drought contingency program in the state’s elk management plan, and came after ranchers pushed for it, the Capital Journal reported (https://bit.ly/2bbw2qS ).

The U.S. Drought Monitor map shows much of western South Dakota in severe or extreme drought. The U.S. Forest Service, which manages grazing on public land in the Black Hills, reports range conditions there are deteriorating quickly. That could send elk onto private land in search of food, causing problems for ranchers.

State wildlife officials said in late July that they would not recommend that the Game, Fish and Parks Commission issue contingency licenses, but ranchers pressured the agency to change its mind.

“Where we’re at now more than warrants the release of contingency licenses,” said Aaron Thompson with the Spearfish Livestock Association.

Earlier this year, the state made 1,698 licenses available for the Black Hills elk gun season. The commission decided late last week to issue five additional licenses for each of 10 northern Black Hills antlerless elk hunting units. A license lottery drawing will be held within the next few months.

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Information from: Pierre Capital Journal, https://www.capjournal.com

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