JACKI LYDEN, Host:
Kirk Siegler of member station KUNC has the story.
KIRK SIEGLER: When wildlife officials decided to hold a lottery to distribute the elk meat, they thought a couple hundred people would apply. Instead, they got 5,247 applicants and had to close the lottery after just a few days.
M: Oh, I was flabbergasted.
SIEGLER: That's Larry Rogstad, and he's with the Colorado Division of Wildlife. He's so surprised because the lottery was barely advertised, but Rogstad says hunters do talk a lot, and the park's plan to cull elk was highly publicized. And then there's the meat.
M: There are a lot of people out there who really like elk meat. And elk meat is high-quality meat, very healthy.
SIEGLER: Hunter Mike Mangelsen loves his elk meat. It's one of the reasons he applied for the lottery.
M: You know, I had steak for dinner last night, elk steak for dinner last night, and it's good meat.
SIEGLER: Mangelsen had also just finished up an elk burrito when I reached him over his lunch hour. A hunter himself, he says he's not disappointed that he didn't win any of the elk up for grabs. He just appreciates that the meat isn't going to waste.
M: You know, rather than just throwing them over the edge of a cliff or into the landfill.
SIEGLER: Especially now, he says, when so many people are struggling to make ends meet. The economy may also be behind the flood of applicants, says Colorado State University professor Mike Manfredo. He studies the human dimensions of wildlife-management decisions.
M: I'll tell you this: I shot an elk this year and got 160 pounds of boned-out meat. So that's a lot of meat to last for the winter. It translates into economic value.
SIEGLER: Manfredo says most people hunt to save money. Elk meat is pretty expensive if you buy it in the grocery store.
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M: You know, this stuff right here, it's all natural, pretty good stuff.
SIEGLER: And this Sunflower Farmers Market, a natural foods chain in Denver, there's a small selection of elk tucked away between bison and ostrich.
M: No, I don't see the elk go very quick.
SIEGLER: Meat manager Ross Cook-Golish says that's probably because ground, it's $5.95 a pound.
M: Yeah. They hunt for that. You go hunting for that. You know, that's what we've always done.
SIEGLER: For NPR News, I'm Kirk Siegler.
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