Dent legislation commissioning pilot project for elk management in Kittitas County passes state House

A bill that would direct the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) to conduct an elk management pilot project to reduce elk highway collisions passed the state House of Representatives on Thursday.

Rep. Tom Dent sponsored House Bill 1353 to address the growing problem of the Colockum herd in the Kittitas County region.

“This is a huge public safety issue along Interstate 90 and needs to be addressed,” said Dent, R-Moses Lake. “It is only a matter of time before we lose a human life if we do not get some better management tools in place. This pilot project is a good start.”

Last year, on Vantage Hill, more than 60 elk were killed in collisions. Dent said the elk are also negatively impacting the local economy.

“The elk are invading hay barns for some of our farmers. If an elk takes one bite of a hay bale, that bale can longer be shipped for export,” said Dent. “This pilot project should give the department some flexibility and additional tools to manage these herds and keep them off our major highways and out of our farmers crops.”

The pilot project would include increased use of special depredation hunts and general hunting opportunities of the Colockum herd, establishment of a permitting mechanism to allow a person to feed elk by permit only, and use of managed livestock grazing to attract elk away from roads and private property.

According to the WDFW, a manageable population for the herd would be about 4,500. Currently, it is estimated the Colockum elk herd population exceeds 6,000.

The bill passed by a vote of 96-1. It now heads to the Senate for consideration.

The Legislature is scheduled to adjourn the regular legislative session on April 23.

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Washington State House Republican Communications
houserepublicans.wa.gov