Rep. Dent’s Colockum Elk Pilot Project moving forward after constructive workshop

Interest parties recently met in Ellensburg to begin implementation of an elk management pilot to address the growing problem of the Colockum herd in the Kittitas County region.

The pilot project is a result of House Bill 1353, sponsored by Rep. Tom Dent, to reduce elk highway collisions and property damage caused by the elk in the Thorp area.

“I am anxious to get the management tools of this pilot project in place. The herd is a huge public safety issue along Interstate 90 and it is damaging crops of our farmers,” said Dent, R-Moses Lake. “We had a great first meeting. The landowners and partner groups are supportive of what we are trying to accomplish and want to work together to ensure this project is successful.”

The first workshop meeting included local landowners, the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT), the Washington Cattlemen’s Association, Kittitas Cattlemen’s Association, and representatives of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Cascade Field and Stream Club, and Kittitas County Field and Stream Club.

Some of the management actions the group outlined that they would like to test in the pilot project include:

  • prohibiting elk feeding in the pilot area;
  • increasing hunting and hazing efforts in the area to reduce the Thorp herd size, which is causing the majority of the crop damage issues;
  • issuing more damage permits to local landowners, so they can help in reducing the herd size;
  • a trial coordinated hunt in the area which would reduce the herd and provide elk meat to local food banks;
  • coordinating with local hunting groups and master hunters to host work parties to help local landowners to build fences and provide hazing; and
  • working with WSDOT to scope the cost and location of an elk fence to keep elk away from I-90 and increase highway safety.

In the winter of 2016, on Vantage Hill, more than 60 elk were killed in collisions with vehicles. The elk are also negatively impacting the local economy, as they raid hay barns. The elk can ruin a hay bale with one bite, and it can no longer be shipped for export.

According to the WDFW, a manageable population for the herd would be about 4,500. Additional tools are critical to getting the herd down to a manageable and sustainable level.

“The department really appreciates Representative Dent’s leadership on this,” said Mike Livingston, WDFW’s Region 3 director. “We received a lot of good ideas from local landowners and community partners during our workshop and we look forward to testing some of them this winter.”

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Washington State House Republican Communications
houserepublicans.wa.gov