Four Roosevelt elk cows shot in Sequim

By Arwyn Rice
Peninsula Daily News

SEQUIM — Hunters supervised by wildlife officials who had issued special licenses shot four elk cows from the Dungeness herd of Roosevelt elk last weekend in a routine measure taken to protect crops, a state agent said.

That reduced the herd to the smallest it has been in its recorded history, said Tim Cullinan, wildlife coordinator for the Point No Point Treaty Council.

Hunts are done if elk cause extensive damage to crops, said Sgt. Eric Anderson, an enforcement officer with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Elk did about $20,000 in damage to agricultural crops on a piece of property in the past year, Anderson said.

When damage becomes that great, special licenses are issued to hunt a few elk to convince the larger herd that the area is dangerous and a place to avoid, Anderson said Monday.

Saturday’s hunt brings the number to 10 elk killed due to the herd’s incursion into agricultural properties in the past year, Anderson said.

Cullinan said the hunt brings the elk cow herd down to about 30 members.

Cullinan said he thought the current size of the herd is about the smallest the herd has ever been.

The Dungeness herd of Roosevelt elk — the largest elk in the world — only had about 40-45 members as of Jan. 1, and a loss of the cows makes a difference in their management, Cullinan said.

Anderson said the property owner who reported $20,000 in damage took the meat from two of the elk in lieu of cash damages from the state, and the other two were sent to the Lower Elwha and Port Gamble Klallam tribes.

Claims can be made to the state for large amounts of elk damage, Anderson said.

A Sequim resident saw the hunt Saturday, and it worried her.

C.J. Rankin said she passed the herd at about 8 a.m. Saturday morning at Schmuck Road and Port Williams Road, and saw a man in a pickup truck following the herd.

“They were very agitated,” Rankin said.

When she returned at 10 a.m., several dead elk were being loaded into the beds of a flatbed truck and two pickup trucks.

“I slowed down, and they just waved me through,” she said.

Rankin said she was upset by the way the herd was treated during the hunt, about their distress.

Anderson said he understood her concern about the elk.

The area manager is very good at making sure the occasional elk removals are quiet and as much out of public view as possible, Anderson said.

The hunts impress on the elk to stay out of the area in which they have occurred, he said.

However, the dwindling number of elk remaining in the herd is a concern for Cullinan.

Cullinan tracks the herd using radio collars and monitors their health and population.

The Dungeness herd of Roosevelt elk — the largest elk in the world — only had about 40-45 members as of Jan. 1, and a loss of the cows makes a difference in their management, Cullinan said.

A dozen adult bulls live in a “bachelor herd” most of the year, joining the main herd only during the fall rutting season.

The bulls are not seen as often and travel further than the cow herd, Cullinan said.

Cullinan said about 20 of the 35 members of the main herd were adult breeding cows, while the remaining members are calves born in 2012 and yearlings born in 2011.

Elk cows only give birth in two of every three years, he said.

With the death of an additional four cows and only about 15 or 16 cows remaining in the herd, there will be only around 10 calves next year, and Cullinan said natural mortality would reduce that group so that only seven or eight will survive to adulthood.

“The population is down to a pretty low level,” Cullinan said.

In 2004, there were more than 100 elk in the Dungeness herd, and there was agreement that it was too many for the area to support, and by 2008, that number was reduced to about 65, he said.



Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5070, or at arwyn.rice@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: January 08. 2013 6:02PM
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