OLYMPIA – State wildlife officials will attend a public meeting Oct. 17 in Packwood to discuss proposed changes in elk-hunting rules to help control crop damage and other problems caused by foraging elk in the Cowlitz River Valley.
The meeting will begin at 5 p.m. in the Packwood Community Hall.
“We encourage anyone with questions or concerns about proposed changes in local elk-hunting rules to attend this meeting,” said Sandra Jonker, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) regional wildlife manager. “This meeting is designed to give people a chance to discuss these proposals directly with department staff.”
In developing statewide hunting seasons for 2009-11, WDFW proposed two possible changes in elk-hunting rules designed to address increasing complaints about elk damage in the Cowlitz River Valley, Jonker said.
Good forage in the valleys below the hills of the Gifford Pinchot National Forests draw large numbers of elk into the area, especially during hard winters, she said.
One proposal would create a new special-permit hunting area one mile from either side of U.S. Highway 12 from Morton to Packwood. The other would allow hunting of cow elk – rather than just branched antler bulls – during the general hunting season in the Davis Lake Valley.
“These changes are being proposed primarily as a way to reduce property damage and other elk-related problems in the area,” Jonker said. “Hunters would undoubtedly take some additional elk, but these proposals aren’t designed to reduce the overall size of the herd. The main goal is to haze animals away from people’s property, and hunters can help do that.”
Local no-shooting zones would remain in place and not be affected by the department’s proposals, Jonker said. Hunters also would still be required to observe “No Trespassing” signs and obtain property owners’ permission before hunting on private land.
As a first step in developing a new three-year hunting plan, WDFW sought public comments on new elk-hunting rules for the Cowlitz River Valley and more than 50 other proposals statewide from mid-August through September. During that time, the department held three public meetings in southwest Washington on local and statewide issues.
A second public-comment period is scheduled Jan. 20 through Feb. 5, 2009, after wildlife officials have considered the first round of comments and revised their initial set of proposals. The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission will then hold a public hearing on WDFW’s final recommendations in March, and take action on hunting rules for 2009-11 in April.
“The upcoming meeting in Packwood provides another opportunity for area residents to comment on proposed elk-hunting rules in the Cowlitz River Valley,” Jonker said. “We welcome this chance for a good exchange of ideas on this issue.”