A 2,800-acre wildlife viewing area near Mount Saint Helens will be closed to the public beginning today to protect a herd of wintering elk.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is temporarily closing the Mount Saint Helens State Wildlife Area due to human disturbance of elk.
Pushed into the area by heavy snowfalls at higher elevations, more than 500 elk are now occupying the site. At this time of year elk are trying to conserve energy, and are further stressed when they move around to avoid people.
The wildlife area, located on State Route 504 (Spirit Lake Memorial Highway) about 30 miles east of Castle Rock, is a grassland which has grown up on a mud flow from the eruption of Mount Saint Helens.
The area may remain closed through May, said Ray Croswell, lands program manager for the WDFW regional office in Vancouver.