JACKSON - The Wyoming Game and Fish Department says the estimated number of elk in the state is well above the agency's goal population.
The most recent elk count shows more than 93,000 elk in the state. The Game and Fish goal is about 83,000, meaning the population is about 12 percent above the goal.
The number is high even though only 25 of 35 Wyoming elk herds were counted. The other 10 herds weren't counted because of their low numbers, wide dispersal and other factors.
Eighteen of the counted herds were above population goals, and the other seven were at their goal numbers, according to the department.
The department uses the elk counts to allocate hunting licenses. But wildlife managers have trouble reducing the size of some herds even after allocating more licenses for those areas.
One such herd is the Fall Creek Herd south of Wilson, where the department has offered more licenses and extended hunting seasons to try to bring the population of 5,950 down to the goal of 4,400.
"It takes a long time to harvest an animal there," Jackson regional supervisor Tim Fuchs said. "The reproductive rate has been stronger than in other areas. Motorized access is more difficult there."
As a result of the census, Game and Fish plans to issue 150 more antlerless-elk permits in the area than last year, when 300 were authorized. Also, the season for that hunting will extend 15 days longer than last year, until Nov. 30.
Bull elk are plentiful in the Fall Creek Herd but somewhat scarce in the Gros Ventre Range. Elk there are a subpopulation of the Jackson Elk Herd, where bull numbers dwindled until 2006.
That year, biologists counted three spike elk per 100 cows, a warning sign that recruitment of bulls into the herd was falling off. Managers instituted a "spikes excluded" regulation to reverse that trend.
Managers also trimmed a week off the end of the season, Fuchs said.
"Bulls are vulnerable at the end of the season," he said.
The strategy appears to have worked. In 2007, biologists counted eight spikes per 100 cows.
Elsewhere in northwest Wyoming, the Jackson Herd was at nearly 13,000 animals, 18 percent above the objective of 11,000. The herd has been averaging about 14,000 animals over the last decade.