OLYMPIA - The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is seeking additional public input on an elk relocation from the Mount St. Helens Wildlife Area in southwest Washington to sites near the Nooksack River in northern Puget Sound.
The move is intended to bolster the North Cascades elk herd, which has dropped from more than 1,700 animals a decade ago to roughly 300 elk today, making it the smallest of the state's 10 managed elk herds.
State, tribal and landowner representatives recently conducted open house-style meetings in Bellingham and Mount Vernon, and heard from a number of area residents who generally voiced support for the proposal, said WDFW Wildlife Program Assistant Director Steve Pozzanghera.
"We had nearly 60 people attend the two meetings and we received excellent input," Pozzanghera said. "We asked folks for help in finding any fatal flaws for conducting the relocation, and to date we haven't found any."
Another public meeting was held earlier this year in the Mount St. Helens area to discuss elk management issues. In addition, public input was taken throughout the state regarding elk management in a series of community meetings during development and review of WDFW's six-year game management plan. Augmentation was also discussed in public meetings during development of the North Cascades elk herd plan.
Preliminary plans call for transferring about 40 to 50 animals in early October, and a similar number in 2004. The adult elk would be radio-collared when they are captured for monitoring after their release. The project cost would be shared by the state and treaty Indian tribes.
Pozzanghera said most of the public comment focused on potential agricultural damage that relocated elk could cause, as well as habitat and tribal hunting issues.
WDFW has produced a factsheet and other materials on the elk transfer. Information is available at http://wdfw.wa.gov/wlm/game/elk/index.htm on the Internet.
Comments on the relocation will be accepted through July 31 and can be sent to: WDFW, Attn: Doug Williams, 600 Capitol Way N., Olympia, WA., 98501-1091, or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.