State and feds killing elk to shrink Skagit Valley herd

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DAY CREEK, Wash. — Nearly 1,700 wild elk have been driving local farmers crazy, knocking down fences and eating their crops.

The problem is so big that the federal and state government has sent in hunters to kill 15 of the animals.

State wildlife officials and farmers have been dealing with this elk problem for decades. But it’s even harder on the farmers in the valley, especially those who are just starting out.

elk2The Haney Farm in Day Creek has so far survived the roaming elk but their neighbors aren’t so lucky.

“The elk have destroyed six acres of the neighbor’s potatoes,” said Bobbie Lane at Haney Farm. “I’ve seen them out in the field eating the potatoes. I’ve seen them three at a time.”

Lane said she’s watched state hunters wander her property looking for the herd.

“I don’t mind the elk, but if they’re destroying the neighbor’s potatoes, that’s their cash crop, that is a problem,” added Lane.

Federal and state officers, plus tribal hunters, have killed four bulls in the past few days and they’re authorized to kill up to 15. It’s part of a short-term plan to reduce the numbers of elk in the Skagit River Valley.

The elk live a pretty good life on the valley floor where there’s lots of food and few predators.

“We’re tried to utilize state hunters, and tribal hunters as well, as damage permits in this one area,” said Russell Link with the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife. “The animal’s behavior in this area has changed as a result of that. These animals have gone nocturnal. In order to bring the damage down to an acceptable level, we’ve had to go in there at night and remove four animals.”

The state issues some elk hunting permits to farmers to try to help thin the herd.

The meat from the four dead bulls has been given to local tribal food banks.

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  • Lorelei Coles

    So, elk are "rogue" when they live in their own valley and eat the crops of encroaching humans who haven't adequately protected the crops? And, rather than calling it what it is and saying "kill" four animals we're using the word "remove…"? Like they're "removing" elk from here and placing them at another, better location. We could just kill all of them and then farmers wouldn't have to pay for adequate fencing at all…and while we're at it, the racoons are killing neighborhood cats. Let's get rid of the racoons too.

  • Matt

    Few fences can stand up to the weight of a bull elk. That’s about 600-800 pounds of critter there. And they can jump most fences. And they have been removed to a better place. Elk happens to be quite tasty! Along with moose, carabou and deer. Raccoon, not so much but I’d give it a try.
    That heard us quite large at 1700 elk. The killing of 15 will not hurt it as much as you think. It may lower birth rates for a while, but still. If you have major concerns try contacting the Rocky Mountain elk foundation. They are a conservation group that protects elk and elk heards across the country.

  • bevis

    this is the worst idea since 3pt min……….you know its hard enough to even find these beasts in hunting season now you say there are too many…..why dont you give it 6 months and let the wolfs do what they are inevitably goin to do