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CODY – The Wyoming Game and Fish Department announced today that it will form a citizen’s working group to assist in formulating recommendations for the future management of the Cody elk herd (hunt areas 55, 56, 58, 59, 60, 61, 66).

“Our intent is to collaborate with a variety of public interests, represented by members of the working group, for direct advice and innovation in the development of recommendations that may be used to address possible declines in calf production and bull numbers in the Cody elk herd unit,” said Brian Nesvik, Cody region wildlife supervisor. “Working group members will represent sportsmen, landowners, outfitters, business and the Game and Fish.”

According to Nesvik, public participation in wildlife management issues is extremely important. “There are a number of approaches agencies can use to involve the public. However, given the complexity of this issue, a collaborative, working group approach seems to be the best tool,” Nesvik said.  He added, “It is my hope that the working group will provide recommendations that reflect the interests and concerns of a wide range of potentially affected people and interests.”

The formation of the working group is set to begin immediately. Nesvik stated that his personnel will actively engage various stakeholders in identifying willing participants to represent them. “We will be asking the various stakeholder groups and citizens at large for their recommendations on working members, but the department will ultimately make the selection,” Nesvik said. According to Nesvik, the group will consist of 12 members, two of which will be local Game and Fish personnel.

The impetus to address the Cody elk herd came from the declining numbers of bulls and the downward trend in calf production in certain portions of the herd unit, concerns expressed by local sportsmen, hunting guides and outfitters and the recently completed Absaroka Elk Ecology Study in the Clarks Fork herd unit (elk hunt areas 50-54, 65, 121).

“While elk calf production has decreased in the Cody elk herd, overall elk numbers are still considered good in the Cody elk herd and in fact, there are some areas where we would prefer to see fewer elk,” Nesvik said.

The results of the elk study indicate that there are major differences in calf production between elk that migrate seasonally into Yellowstone National Park and those that do not. “Migratory elk currently exhibit very low calf production while non-migratory elk have very high production,” said Doug McWhirter, Cody wildlife biologist for the Game and Fish. “Calf production eventually determines bull hunting opportunity.” McWhirter coordinated the elk study.

Nesvik said that the Game and Fish has been presenting information on these trends and sharing their concern with these developments. “We have been gathering input from various stakeholders and have found that there is currently widely divergent attitudes regarding the pervasiveness of the problem, the severity of the problem, and what course of action – if any should be taken.” Nesvik said.

Nesvik stated that the working group will have one year to develop their recommendations to the Game and Fish; however, they will not begin their task until after the 2011 big game season setting process is complete.

The working group approach has previously been used by the Game and Fish in the development of the Big Horn Basin Sage Grouse Management Plan, hunting season recommendations for the Clarks Fork mule deer and Clarks Fork elk herd units, and Wyoming’s Grizzly Bear Management Plan.