Boulder County, Colorado approved a plan allowing a limited elk hunt to take place on the Rabbit Mountain Open Space, just north of Boulder on Tuesday.

The decision coming after officials have watched the mountain’s elk population skyrocket over the past decade.  Ten short years ago, there were an estimated 25 elk thought to inhabit the mountain, but that number has since grown exponentially.  As the animals associated the mountain as a safe haven from hunters, the population now resides somewhere in the neighborhood of 350 elk according to wildlife officials in Colorado.

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Chart: Boulder County

Citing fears of the long-term effects the elk could have on the landscape, coupled with the fact that the elk no longer participate in migration routes, Boulder County began the process of exploring the possibility of a limited elk hunt on approximately 500 acres of the mountain.

After four public meetings, Boulder County announced on Tuesday that an inaugural, limited elk hunt was approved for Rabbit Mountain beginning the day after Labor Day and running until January 31, 2018.

While a portion of the hunt is expected to trim the population, the main goal of the hunt is to disperse the animals, rather than eliminate them all together says Boulder County Parks & Open Space Ranger Erin Hartnett.

“They just stay right here at Rabbit Mountain year round,” Hartnett says. “They’ve been able to reproduce and they don’t have any pressures from hunting.”

“We’re really just trying to get the elk to disperse and go back to their natural pattern,” she told 9 News.

The hunting plan was accepted as a 3-year program that will be reevaluated after the first season of hunting is complete.