State agency developing Willapa Hills elk management plan

Staff reportMay 11, 2014 

Public comments collected through June 2 will be used to develop management guildines for elk in the southwest corner of the state.

State wildlife managers also have planned meetings this week to discuss the draft Willapa Hills Elk Herd Plan.

One of 10 elk herds in the state, the Willapa Hills herd is made up of an estimated 8,000-10,000 Roosevelt elk. The herd is known to roam the forested region from state routes 8 and 12 south to the Columbia River and Interstate 5 west to the Pacific Ocean.

The draft management plan calls for developing more precise information about the size of the herd by 2015, according to a department news release. Other key goals outlined in the plan include maintaining the herd’s size, improving its habitat, minimizing crop damage and addressing the incidence of disease.

The Willapa Hills elk herd is one of two herds in the state affected by hoof disease, which has spread rapidly among elk in the region since 2008. The department is currently working with veterinary specialists and diagnostic labs to find what causes the disease.

Other elements of the plan:

• Maintain pre-hunting season populations within a range of 15-35 bulls per 100 cows and/or post-season populations within a range of 12-20 bulls per 100 cows. In addition, manage for a post-season bull population where mature bulls make up 2-10 percent of the bull population.

• Maintain sustainable hunting opportunities. The plan states a desire to keep the herd at its current level by maintaining harvest levels during general hunting seasons between 900-1,300 elk. It calls for coordination with area treaty tribes in developing hunting seasons and planning other management activities.

• Increase public awareness of the herd by creating a brochure similar to the Audubon Society’s “Great Washington State Birding Trail” map. It would identify routes and key points that provide the best opportunity to see and photograph Willapa Hills elk.

Wildlife managers will consider public comments as they draft a new version of the plan for public review. Final approval, expected this fall, will mark the completion of formal management plans for all the state’s elk herds.

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