OLYMPIA – The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is accepting public comment on a Mount Saint Helens Elk Herd Management Plan proposal that would increase herd size, in part, by restricting the current "any-elk" harvest strategy in several Columbia Gorge game management units.
Public testimony on the proposed plan will be taken through the month of April, before a final elk management plan is adopted.
The plan will guide WDFW elk management activities, with the goal of bringing the herd size back up to 15,000 animals while continuing to offer recreational opportunity. The plan also seeks to avoid significant impacts to the local deer population and increased elk damage claims.
"This will be difficult to do, at best, and only will be possible with some shifts in management emphasis," said WDFW Wildlife Biologist Fred Dobler, who oversees the agency's Southwest Washington wildlife program. "One change being considered would be to restrict the current ‘any-elk' harvest strategy in several game management units."
Current regulations permit the harvest of any elk in Game Management units 568 (Washougal), 574 (Wind River) and 578 (West Klickitat). This regulation was put in place prior to 1966 to reduce competition with deer in the area and has helped control elk damage in the southern portions of the units. The objective of the new proposal would be to reduce cow-elk mortality in the Washougal, Wind River and northern part of West Klickitat, perhaps by making antlerless elk harvest permit-only.
"At a recent public open house in Longview, we hoped to receive comment on this particular issue but we got none, either for or against, so we want to bring it again to the public's attention in hopes of determining what path is preferred," Dobler said. "The options for increasing elk numbers are few, and none are without tradeoffs."
Written comment may be submitted either by mail to the WDFW Wildlife Program, attn. George Tsukamoto, 600 Capitol Way North, Olympia, WA 98501, or via email at http://wdfw.wa.gov/publications/00771/ on the Internet.