Ensuring the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

RMEF, USFS Give South Dakota Wildlife Plenty to ‘Guzzle’ About

“You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink” is one of the oldest English proverbs in existence. How's this for a wildlife-friendly proverb: “If an elk makes its way to a water guzzler, will it guzzle?” 

Elk and other wildlife in South Dakota now have that option thanks to ongoing repair work by volunteers from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and the Black Hills National Forest. Members of the RMEF Gold Country Chapter, based out of Deadwood, are working to fix 5-10 guzzlers per year for the next several years on the Northern Hills Ranger District. When all is said and done, 47 guzzlers will be good to go for wildlife. 

“Guzzlers are intended to improve habitat for wildlife by providing water, mainly in locations where there is not a natural water source,” said Jeff Goldberg, wildlife biologist, Northern Hills Ranger District.

The RMEF and the Forest Service partnered for many years across the country. “They do wonderful habitat improvement projects for wildlife and often the Forest Service just doesn’t have the funds to do some of the projects that we’d like to do,” said Goldberg. “Having partnerships with organizations like RMEF really help us maintain our habitat for wildlife.”

The RMEF provided funding for the project with a $3,000 grant awarded to the Gold Country chapter. RMEF purchased materials, donated products from private companies and provided volunteer labor.

Goldberg said that once the guzzlers are repaired, they are not very difficult to maintain. “Each year they will need to be checked to make sure the drains are unclogged and the fences are still up and in place,” said Goldberg. “With RMEF help, our goal is to get as many of these back in working condition and keep them in working condition by maintaining them on a regular basis.”

Larry Karns, RMEF volunteer, said that most of the volunteers in the group are hunters and spend a lot of time in the woods. “We have come across these sites and always wondered why there was no maintenance done on them and of course budgets are getting tighter and tighter for government entities and so we were of the opinion that coming to the end of our hunting time, it was a real requirement that we put back, give back for what we have had in our generations for the new generations coming.”

Signs will be installed on the newly repaired guzzlers. They will provide an overview on what a guzzler is, why they are important, and who to contact if a guzzler is not functional or if it is damaged.

“The camaraderie is what we are all about. It’s like being in a hunting group – We come to the woods to enjoy each other’s company,” said Karns. 

The repaired guzzlers will provide a watery oasis for big game species, like elk and deer, and also small mammals, birds, and bats.

Now that’s something to guzzle about!

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