OLYMPIA - The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is accepting public comments through June 2 on a draft Willapa Hills Elk Herd Plan, designed to guide future management of elk in the southwest corner of the state.
State wildlife managers will also hold two public meetings to discuss the draft plan, which is posted on WDFW's website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/publications/01592/.
The meetings are scheduled at the following locations and times:
- Montesano - May 13 from 6-7:30 p.m. at WDFW's regional office, 48 Devonshire Road.
- Longview - May 15 from 6-7:30 p.m. at the Cowlitz County PUD office, 961 12th Ave.
Written comments can be submitted online at http://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/elk/willapa_hills/comments.html or mailed to Willapa Hills Elk Herd Plan, Wildlife Program, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, 600 Capitol Way North, Olympia, WA 98501.
One of 10 elk herds in Washington state, the Willapa Hills herd is made up of an estimated 8,000 to 10,000 Roosevelt elk that roam the forested region from Grays Harbor south to the Columbia River and Interstate 5 west to the Pacific Ocean.
WDFW's management plan calls for developing more precise information about the size and other characteristics of the herd. Other key goals outlined in the plan include maintaining the herd's size, improving its habitat, minimizing crop damage and addressing the incidence of disease.
The Willapa Hills elk herd is one of two herds in Washington affected by hoof disease, which has spread rapidly among elk in the region since 2008. WDFW is currently working with veterinary specialists and diagnostic labs to find what causes the disease.
The plan also recognizes the importance of maintaining sustainable hunting opportunities, calling for close coordination between WDFW and area treaty tribes in developing hunting seasons and planning other management activities.
WDFW will consider comments received in writing or during the public meetings in drafting a new version of the plan for public review. Final approval, expected this fall, will mark the completion of formal management plans for all 10 elk herds in the state.