The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) will conduct its first auction of shed elk antlers May 2 to raise funds for its Oak Creek Wildlife Area winter elk feeding program.
The auction starts at 1 p.m. at the Oak Creek headquarters building, 16601 Highway 12, west of Naches in Yakima County. Those interested in bidding should arrive at 11 a.m. to pre-register.
WDFW Wildlife Area Manager John McGowan said hundreds of pounds of antlers, shed by Rocky Mountain elk at the Oak Creek winter feeding site will be available for bidding. The antlers, shed annually by male elk, were picked up and stored by staff and volunteers in recent years. Winning bids must be paid in cash or check, payable to WDFW, at the auction.
“We hope this auction will help us offset some of the cost of feeding these animals every winter,” McGowan said.
“There are some matched sets from some of the biggest and oldest bulls, plus lots of single sheds of all sizes,” McGowan said. “We’ll also have some shed antlers from Roosevelt elk from the Mount St. Helens Wildlife Area, and possibly deer antlers from other wildlife areas.”
All funds raised at the auction will go into the winter wildlife feeding program.
About 3,500 to 4,000 elk are fed each winter at several sites on the 47,200-acre Oak Creek Wildlife Area. WDFW purchased the Oak Creek land in 1943 to provide a home for growing numbers of elk that were coming into conflict with private landowners, orchard growers and livestock producers. Winter feeding began about 1968 to keep elk on the public land and avoid agricultural damage.
Over 100,000 people visit the headquarters feeding site at Oak Creek to view elk each winter. The number of big-antlered animals on display at the site has increased since the 1990s, when elk-hunting rules were changed to avoid over-harvesting mature bulls, McGowan said.
“The oldest, biggest bulls shed their antlers first,” he said. “We had an impressive, 10-year-old bull drop both antlers right in front of visitors on February 20. Most antlers are shed by early April, but some of the youngest bulls are still carrying them now.”
A large portion of the Oak Creek Wildlife Area is closed to all access until 6 a.m. May 1. The annual closure in early spring is designed to avoid disturbing the elk at their most vulnerable time of year. Like other wildlife, winter-fed elk have critically low energy reserves at the end of winter, McGowan said. They replenish those reserves by feeding on the first green vegetation in early spring.
All shed antlers for auction were collected by WDFW from supplemental feeding sites, not from the surrounding range, McGowan said.
For more information about the Oak Creek Wildlife Area, including driving directions, see http://wdfw.wa.gov/lands/wildlife_areas/oak_creek/.