Elk NetworkRestoring Elk Country – Wildlife Guzzlers Partnership, South Dakota

Conservation | May 5, 2021

Elk country can be thick and lush with vegetation.

It can be mountainous with scenic, inspiring views.

It may also feature bone-dry conditions for parts of a calendar year, leaving bulls, cows and calves alike in a near constant search for life-sustaining water.

To assist elk and other wildlife in western South Dakota, members of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation rolled up their sleeves and got to work.

While RMEF volunteers assist with wildlife water guzzler projects in other regions, the Northern Hills Ranger District on the Black Hills National Forest is the epicenter for an impressive and productive partnership that now spans more than a decade.

RMEF provides support for both grant funding to purchase materials and supplies, and volunteers to carry out the manpower in collaboration with the U.S. Forest Service.

The goal is to get upwards of 50 guzzlers scattered across the district up to shape and back into operation, and to continue to monitor each site into the future.

To date, volunteers climbed to ridge tops or descended into canyons as they racked up more than 5,400 hours to build, repair and monitor guzzlers.

Oftentimes, they also remove overgrown vegetation and build or repair fencing designed to keep out livestock while letting wildlife in.