Arizona Elk Symposium
Your ideas on managing Arizona's elk are important. Come and be heard at the "Arizona Elk Symposium" sponsored by Gov. Jane Dee Hull, starting 9 a.m. June 23 at the Phoenix Civic Plaza.

The cost is $5 and registration must be made by June 20. Look on page 31 of the Arizona Game and Fish Department's 2001-2002 Hunting Regulations.

Arizona is renowned across North America for its trophy-class elk. Rocky Mountain elk are truly a wildlife and economic success story in this state. Arizona's native wapiti, the Merriam's elk, became extinct around the turn of the 20th Century. Early last century, Rocky Mountain elk were introduced. The small introduced population has since spread throughout Arizona's high country, and sometimes beyond.

The very adaptability of these successful wild ungulates can sometimes put them at odds with other public land uses or practices, and sometimes results in conflicts with private property uses. They can even come into conflict with other wildlife management needs.

Elk have spread into some marginal habitats, such as the desert around Alamo Lake. They have also spread into areas where they are coming into conflict with management objectives for other species, such as on the Kaibab Plateau that is renowned for its remarkable mule deer bucks. Elk can often be found in suburban areas, such as Flagstaff. During the two major elk movement seasons (spring and fall), elk can even become road hazards.

Hunters, campers and other outdoor recreationists want elk — lots of elk. These recreationists support a burgeoning economic mainstay for rural communities, and for the state as a whole — eco-tourism.

Yet those same elk can come into conflict with agrarian practices, which are also important both socially and economically to rural areas. However, Department biologists estimate that only 5 percent of Arizona's elk population causes the majority of conflicts.

Managing elk in Arizona is no simple matter. In fact, the Arizona Game and Fish Department is always looking for new and creative ways to best meet everyone's needs and expectations when feasible.

This year, the department pulled together its most seasoned elk managers from around the state, put them into a team, and told them to "think outside the box" and come up with alternative elk management strategies to meet all the diverse needs and expectations out there. That was no simple task.

Many of those creative elk management strategies became reality in this year's hunting regulations adopted by the Game and Fish Commission in April. The Department is focusing hunters into specific marginal elk habitats to increase the harvest. Increased harvest is also being directed at habitats where elk are not desired, such as the Kaibab Plateau.

The Elk Team also came up with other creative strategies that require going through the public process to change regulations.

As one journalist put it, "Managing Arizona's elk is a work in progress." And it should be. The key is getting quality input and ideas from the public. Please come and share your ideas.

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