Washington State Elk Herd Plan: Selkirk Elk Herd (2012)


Published: June 2014

Pages: 70

Author(s): Howard L. Ferguson, Dana L. Base and Frederick C. Dobler

Executive Summary

The Selkirk Elk Herd is one of ten herds identified in Washington State. The population is comprised of two sub-herds, scattered through seven counties. This elk herd represents an important resource that provides substantial recreational, aesthetic, cultural, and economic benefits to Washington citizens and the Native American people of the area.

The purpose of the Selkirk Elk Herd Plan is to provide direction for managing the Selkirk elk herd. This plan is subject to amendment and should be updated, reevaluated, amended, and extended as new information becomes available. The Selkirk Elk Herd Plan will serve as a valuable reference document and provide management guidelines for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (Department), Tribes, agency cooperators, landowners, and the public. Priority management activities will be carried out as funding and resources are available.

Four primary goals guide the Selkirk Elk Herd Plan: (1) To preserve, protect, perpetuate, manage, and enhance elk and their habitats to ensure healthy, productive populations and ecosystem integrity; (2) To manage this elk herd for a sustained hunting yield; and (3) To manage elk for a variety of recreational, educational and aesthetic purposes including hunting, scientific study, cultural and ceremonial uses by Native Americans, biodiversity, wildlife viewing, and photography, (4) To manage elk and elk habitat to minimize human conflicts and agricultural damage.

The Selkirk elk herd is primarily a reintroduced elk population, with reintroductions originating from Montana in 1915 and subsequent augmentations in 1932, 1969, 1970, and 2000. The Spokane Tribe of Indians and the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Indian Reservation have also translocated elk to their respective reservations within the last 25 years. (B.J. Kieffer, Spokane Tribe of Indians, personal communication; S. Judd, Colville Confederated Tribes, personal communication). Several translocations in British Columbia have reestablished elk north of the international border. These combined efforts have contributed to a general range expansion of elk in northeastern Washington.

The elk population prior to the 1970's was primarily confined to northern Pend Oreille County. During the 1970's and 1980's elk expanded into northern Spokane and Stevens Counties. Beginning in the 1990’s significant expansion of elk numbers and distribution took place within Ferry, Lincoln, Whitman, and southern Spokane Counties.

The Selkirk herd is comprised of two sub-herds: The Pend Oreille sub-herd occurs north of the Spokane River west to the Okanogan River. The Spokane sub-herd occurs south of the Spokane River to the Snake River. The Pend Oreille sub-herd is thought to number between 1,000 and 2,100 elk and the Spokane sub-herd consists of between 1,000 and 1,500 elk, making the total Selkirk herd less than 3,600 elk. These numbers are based upon information from sporadic surveys, harvest data, and discussions with hunters.

Few Selkirk elk were reported harvested from the 1930's to the early 1970's. Hunter activity and associated elk harvest increased significantly as the elk population grew and expanded within the Selkirk Herd boundary. Elk harvest from 1994-1999 averaged 205 animals annually with a peak in harvest occurring in 1999 when 338 elk were taken. The 2001-2010 average annual harvest was 380 elk taken with a high of 526 taken in 2010.

Specific elk herd and habitat management objectives, problems, and strategies are identified in the following sections. These priority objectives reflect key management issues and specific challenges in elk management. To accomplish each objective a variety of strategies have been developed. The following objectives have been identified:

Selkirk Elk Herd Management Objectives

  • Develop and implement a formal survey protocol to generate an elk population estimate or index for the Selkirk elk herd by 2015.
  • Expand the Pend Oreille sub-herd population numbers from today¡¦s current level (about 1,500) to an upper limit of 2,500.
  • Maintain the Spokane sub-herd population numbers at today¡¦s current level (about 1,000) to an upper limit of 1,500.
  • Manage for bull ratio estimates of 12 to 20 bulls per 100 cows post-hunt and/or 15 to 35 bulls per 100 cows pre-hunt.
  • Encourage the conservation of elk habitat on private lands within the Selkirk Herd area.
  • Use adaptive management to minimize the number of elk caused damage claims.
  • Cooperate and collaborate with the Kalispel Tribe of Indians, Confederated Tribes of the Colville Indian Reservation, the Spokane Tribe of Indians, and the Coeur d¡¦Alene Tribe to implement the Selkirk Elk Herd Plan, including development of hunting season packages conducted on a 3-year cycle.
  • Cooperate and collaborate with County Governments to implement the Selkirk Elk Herd Plan especially in discussions of problems and solutions associated with elk damage and conflict.

Spending Priorities

Spending priorities have also been identified for the first 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 Current ExpendituresFirst Year NeedsFive Year Needs
Population Monitoring$5,000$150,000$200,000
Harvest Management$20,000$20,000$100,000
Habitat Management$500$10,000$10,000
Elk-Human Conflict$5,000$15,000$75,000

Suggested citation

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. 2014. Selkirk Elk Herd Plan. Wildlife Program, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Olympia. 59pp.

Draft documents

Draft documents are provided for informational purposes only. Drafts may contain factual inaccuracies and may not reflect current WDFW policy.