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Draft Washington State Elk Herd Plan: Selkirk Elk Herd (2001)

Category: Wildlife Research and Management - Game Management and Conservation

Date Published: February 2001

Number of Pages: 56

Author(s): Steve Zender and Jerry Hickman


The Selkirk Elk Herd is one of ten herds identified in the State. It is the northern most herd in eastern Washington. It is a conglomerate of many small groups or sub-herds, scattered throughout northeastern Washington, with the core populations in Game Management Units (GMUs) 109, 113, 117, 124 and 130. This elk herd represents an important resource that provides significant recreational, aesthetic, cultural and economic benefit to Washington citizens and to the Native American people of the area.

The Selkirk elk herd is a reintroduced herd resulting from a transplant of stock from Montana in 1915 and subsequent augmentations in 1932, 1969, 1970 and most recently in 2000 of stock from Yakima and Rattlesnake Hills (Hanford) Washington. The Spokane Tribe of Indians and the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Indian Reservation have also transplanted elk to their respective reservations within the last 25 years. (Kieffer, B.J. pers. comm. 2000; Judd, S. pers comm. 2000). These transplants have resulted in distinct elk populations that are not included with this plan but have contributed to the expansion of elk in northeastern Washington through emigration and expansion of range.

North of the Spokane River where elk are scattered in small groups over several counties, no complete surveys or statistical models have been employed to estimate total populations. In this area elk numbers are based on local knowledge gleaned from sporadic surveys, harvest data, and interviews with hunters. The current estimate for the northern area is about 1000 elk. The Hangman elk population is estimated to be 200 based upon population modeling, including survey and harvest data analysis from 1993 to 1997. The number of elk on Turnbull NWR for 1997 was estimated at 179 animals. The total Selkirk herd is estimated at 1,200 elk.

The elk population prior to the 1970's was primarily confined to northern Pend Oreille County. During the 70's and 80's elk expanded into Stevens and Spokane Counties. Significant expansion of elk numbers and distribution has occurred in the 90's into Ferry, Lincoln, southern Spokane and Whitman Counties.

Few elk were reported harvested from the 1930's to the early 1970's. With the gradual buildup and expanded distribution of elk in the Selkirk herd area hunter activity and elk harvest increased significantly. The elk harvest from 1994-1999 averaged 205 animals with an average of 4,596 hunters expending an average of 23,668 days of effort. The peak in harvest occurred in 1999 when 338 elk were reported taken, with a significant portion taken in the Hangman sub-herd area.

The purpose of this plan is to provide direction for the management of the Selkirk elk resource into the future. This is a five-year plan subject to amendment. Before the end of the fifth year of this plan, it should be updated, reevaluated, amended and carried out for another 5-year period. It will be a valuable reference document and guideline for WDFW, Tribes, agency cooperators, landowners and the public. Priority management activities can be carried out as funding and resources become available.

Three primary goals in the Selkirk Elk Herd Plan are: (1) to manage the elk herd for a sustained yield; (2) to manage elk for a variety of recreational, educational and aesthetic purposes including hunting, scientific study, cultural and ceremonial uses by Native Americans, wildlife viewing and photography; and (3) to preserve, protect, perpetuate, manage and enhance elk and their habitats to ensure healthy, productive populations.

Specific elk herd and habitat management objectives, problems and strategies are identified. These are priority objectives identified to address specific problems in elk management. To accomplish each objective a variety of strategies have been developed. The following objectives have been identified:

  • Manage the Selkirk Elk Herd using the best available science.
  • Maintain current elk populations in non conflict areas and discourage elk expansion in western Stevens, northern Spokane and Ferry counties.
  • Stabilize and maintain elk numbers at levels compatible with landowners and suburban expansion in PMU 12 (GMUs 127-142).
  • Increase the elk population in eastern Stevens and Pend Oreille counties from 800 to 1,000 in keeping with habitat limitations and landowner tolerance.
  • Manage PMU 10 for post hunting season bull ratios consistent with the statewide plan (currently 12 bulls per 100 cows) in combination with overall bull mortality rate 50%.
  • Reduce poaching of elk.
  • Reduce damage complaints caused by elk.
  • Cooperate and collaborate with the Kalispel Tribe of Indians, Colville Confederated Tribes, and Spokane Tribe of Indians to implement the Selkirk Elk Herd Plan.
  • Increase hunting opportunity while still maintaining population and bull escapement objectives.
  • Increase baseline information on important elk habitats in the priority elk areas of the Selkirk herd.
  • Maintain or improve current habitat capability, especially critical use areas on USFS lands in PMU 10 (Pend Oreille).
  • Enhance nutritional quality and quantity of key elk winter and spring foraging areas.
  • Encourage habitat improvement projects for elk in GMU 105 (Kelly Hill).
  • Eliminate impacts to endangered caribou and grizzly bears in the northern half of GMU 113 (Selkirk).
  • Increase public awareness of the elk resource and promote non consumptive values of elk including viewing and photography. Encourage more aesthetic appreciation of the Hangman sub-herd (GMUs 127-142).
  • Reduce vehicle-elk collisions on major highways.

Spending priorities have been identified for the first year and the next five years. Achieving spending levels will be contingent upon availability of funds and creation of partnerships. The recommended prioritized expenditures for the Selkirk elk herd are as follows:

Priority Expenditures 1st year 5 years
Harvest data collection. $5,000.00 $25,000.00
Herd surveys $6,000.00 $30,000.00
Habitat improvement $5,000.00 $25,000.00
Damage claims $1,000.00 $5,000.00
Road management $4,000.00 $7,000.00
Augment elk into GMUs 113 and 117. $2,000.00 $10,000.00
Establish public viewing areas. $0.00 $29,000.00
Reduce vehicle-elk accidents on highways $25,000.00 $25,000.00
Total $48,000.00 $156,000.00