Category: Game Management and Conservation
Published: November 2019
Author(s): Michelle Tirhi, David Vales, and Mike Smith
The North Rainier Elk Herd is one of ten elk herds, as defined by the WDFW for management purposes, residing in Washington State. This elk herd’s range encompasses portions of Pierce, King, Snohomish and Kittitas counties. These elk are distributed along the western slopes of the Cascade Mountain Range, however, some elk that winter on the east side of the Cascades spend time on the west side during summer. Small satellite groups occur in the foothills and pockets of habitat near urban and suburban developments. This herd is an important resource that provides significant recreational, subsistence, cultural, aesthetic and economic benefits to Washington citizens and is a valued cultural, subsistence, and ceremonial resource to the Native American people of the area.
This plan’s purpose is to provide direction for managing the North Rainier elk resource into the future as well as provide a historical perspective on the herd. This plan is subject to amendment as needed, and will be in effect until revised. It will be a valuable reference document and guideline for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, tribes, agency cooperators, landowners, land planners and the general public. Priority management and research activities will be implemented as funding and resources become available.
Four primary goals guide the North Rainier Elk Herd Plan:
- Preserve, protect, perpetuate, manage and enhance elk habitats to ensure healthy, productive populations
- Manage the North Rainier elk herd for a sustained annual harvest
- 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
- Minimize property damage and public safety risks associated with elk
Specific elk herd and habitat management objectives, problems, and strategies are identified in this plan. Priority objectives address specific problems in managing this elk herd, and a variety of strategies have been developed to solve these problems.
The following herd management objectives have been identified:
- Develop and implement standardized and statistically valid survey protocols that will generate reliable estimates of population size or indices of population trend for the North Rainier elk herd by 2025.
- Maintain the NREH at 4,850 elk (+ or – 10%), as determined by post-season population estimates, using the accepted protocols identified in Objective 1.
- Manage the elk herd to maintain minimum post-season bull to cow ratios of 12 to 20 bulls per 100 cows.
- While attempting to achieve the population objective, reduce the number of elk-caused damage complaints on private lands in the NREH area.
- By 2025 initiate at least two projects that focus on reducing elk vehicle collisions in high collision areas.
- By 2025 complete at least two projects that enhance the public’s ability to observe and appreciate elk in their natural habitat or increase public understanding of elk biology and their habitat requirements.
- Meet as necessary, but at least annually to cooperate and collaborate with the Tribes to implement the NREH Plan.
The Spending Priorities section shows the additional funding needed to complete priority tasks in this plan. Most of the strategies listed in the plan do not require additional funding, but only a change to WDFW staff work-plan assignments. This is called base funding. In addition, many priority tasks are already being performed each year, sometimes by outside partners such as the MIT. Only Objective 1 requires spending above base funding.