Tourist attraction: People seek glimpses, photos of Sequim elk on the move

By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News

SEQUIM –– Hopeful photographers looked for the Dungeness herd of Roosevelt elk Thursday after the Clallam County Sheriff’s Office issued another advisory to drivers that morning that the herd was hanging out close to U.S. Highway 101.

At 5 a.m. Thursday, the herd of 28 cows and calves was spotted in a field about 400 yards north of Highway 101 off Keeler Road, according to Tim Cullinan, wildlife coordinator for the Point No Point Treaty Council.

Cullinan said the elk were about half a mile from “their favorite crossing points east of Whitefeather Way.”

The Sheriff’s Office issued a warning because elk are so large that a car hitting one at a speed high enough to kill the animal often is destroyed, Cullinan has said.

It was the third alert in as many days and brought in another wave of elk-watchers.

Bicyclists on the Olympic Discovery Trail reported seeing the herd lounging in fields on the western edge of the Johnson Creek woods just before noon.

“Every time they come out of the woods, I try and get out and see them,” Melissa Mann of Sequim said.

Mann was out Thursday afternoon hoping to get a good photograph of the elk.

The last time she saw them was about a year and half ago, she said, when she took a photo of the herd on Brownfield Road.

“They’re just so beautiful,” said Warren Horton of Tigard, Ore., who was in Sequim visiting relatives with his wife, Ginny.

“We had some time to ourselves and had to get out here and try to take a look at them.”

The Hortons, amateur photographers, were driving around the east Sequim area where the elk have been spotted over the past few days.

Several cars with licenses plates from Washington and Alaska turned out Tuesday to catch a glimpse of the elk as they grazed in a hayfield east of Sequim near the Holiday Inn Express.

A KIRO television news van made the trip from Seattle to film the elk.

For some of those who live nearby, though, elk-watchers can be a bothersome companion to the elk.

“One time, I had a bunch of people come through my yard, and they chased the elk across the field, where there was a bunch of other people chasing the elk this way,” said Marty Greenwald, who lives along the south edge of the field in which the elk were spotted Tuesday.

“They had them running and panicked going back and forth. They just about loved them to death.”

Before moving in, he was warned by the people who previously lived there that elk-watchers would be walking through his front yard.

He said several cars drove into his driveway, clearly marked as a private drive with “no trespassing” signs, to espy the elk.

“I tell them it’s a private road, but they just tell me, ‘The elk are here. I have to see what they’re doing,’” Greenwald said.

Most watchers, he said, apologize and head up the hill on Washington Harbor Loop to get a high perch to look down upon the resting herd.

“But about 20 percent of the people will storm right through here with their cellphones up in the air trying to get a picture of the elk,” Greenwald said.

Cullinan said it is unusual for the elk to be so near the highway this time of year.

The herd typically stays north of the highway this time of year, he added, to forage in farm fields.

He doesn’t understand why they are moving now, he said earlier this week.

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Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at jsmillie@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: January 24. 2013 7:17PM
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