Elk Foundation volunteers rehab water sites for wildlife

September 7, 2018

SPEARFISH — A group of dedicated volunteers with the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation recently completed the repair of four water guzzler sites in the Northern Black Hills.

The guzzlers, large tanks below rain-collecting structures, gather and hold water for wildlife.

The majority of guzzlers in the Black Hills were constructed in the 1980s, and some in the 1990s, and many have fallen into disrepair. Thus enter the volunteers.

Larry Karns, a volunteer with the Gold Country Chapter of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, was among the volunteers.

Karns said there are 50 guzzler sites in the Northern Hills Ranger District, and while finding water is not an issue for animals, finding water away from highways and roads is.

He said many times the rain-collecting aprons no longer function as designed thanks to heavy snow loads, or even animals walking on them.

Volunteers remove the tin covering the support structure and then repair the wooden structure with new pressure treated lumber.

Karns said often times the spacing between wooden supports are reduced, which allows more weight to be carried. The tin is placed back on, and in some cases, the tank is also replaced.

To function properly, rain falls on the apron that measures 24-feet-wide-by-50-feet-long, in most cases, and flows down the tin and into the water tank. The apron covers part of the tank to help reduce the amount of evaporation.

In all, it takes 40-60 hours of labor, which includes the disassembly, preparation of new materials, and finally assembly, to rehab each guzzler, Karns said. Each one costs around $3,000-$3,500 for materials and labor, he added.

The Gold Country Chapter will host its annual banquet starting at 4:30 p.m. Saturday at The Lodge at Deadwood. Tickets, which include a membership and meal, are $60. They can be purchased at the door. For more information, call 210-2013.

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