Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) staff will discuss Colockum elk herd research and current elk winter-range closures at a public meeting Jan. 6 in Ellensburg.
The meeting will start at 7 p.m., at the Hal Holmes Center, 209 N. Ruby St.
For the past three years about 44,000 acres of the Whiskey Dick and Quilomene wildlife areas, northwest of Vantage, have been closed to motor vehicles from February through April to protect wintering elk from disturbance.
"Late winter and early spring recreational use of the area has increased over the past decade, causing elk to abandon their winter range on these wildlife areas as early as mid-February," said Ted Clausing, WDFW’s south-central regional wildlife program manager in Yakima.
"Elk need to stay on winter range well into April to stay nourished and maintain the health of the herd," Clausing said, noting that the closures are consistent with those on the Oak Creek, Wenas and L.T. Murray wildlife areas, and elsewhere in the state.
When elk leave wildlife areas and move to adjacent private land, they compete with cattle for forage and damage crops and stock fences, said Anthony Novack, WDFW’s elk- and deer-conflict specialist in Ellensburg.
WDFW research on elk use of the area began in 2008 when six adult female elk were captured and equipped with Global Positioning System (GPS) devices to track their movements. Since then a total of 105 elk have been equipped with tracking devices and currently 46 elk are being tracked. The study will continue until May 2012. Research results will help WDFW biologists assess how closing elk winter range to motor vehicles affects seasonal elk movement.
WDFW has worked with local partners to manage wintering elk through the Kittitas Big Game Management Roundtable, which includes Kittitas Field and Stream Club, Kittitas County Cattlemen’s Association, Wenatchee Sportsmen, Kittitas Audubon, citizen advisory groups for local wildlife areas and others.