Washington seeks solutions to overabundant elk population


Washington Elk
Photo credit: Shutterstock

Elk are magnificent animals to spot in the wild, but in Central Washington, residents are seeking solutions to the prolific Colockum herd. This herd is comprised of about 6,500 elk – elk that damage irrigation lines and hay storage and caused about 60 motor vehicle collisions last year. The Colockum herd, which typically roams between Wenatchee, Ellensburg and the Columbia River, migrates to lower elevations in search of food, which results in issues for area residents, the HeraldNet reports.

“We don’t want (the elk) to go away,” State Representative Tom Dent (R-13) told the HeraldNet. “We want to coexist.”

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Dent, who is also a Moses Lake rancher, is sponsoring legislation that will hopefully help rectify these elk-related issues. He listened to various ideas that were discussed at a recent meeting with ranchers, farmers, sportsmen, transportation and wildlife officials. These ideas included installing wildlife fencing in key areas and holding managed hunts. Based upon these discussions and feedback, Dent has proposed a new pilot program that “calls for the state Department of Transportation (WDoT) to investigate the costs of installing elk-proof fencing” along area highways to keep elk off the roads; WDoT has already installed a fence barrier near the “right-of-way fence along the highway,” according to the HeraldNet.

If the pilot program is successful, Dent hopes to expand it across the state.

Because there is no state funding for the fencing program, various wildlife and hunting organizations have volunteered to help get the fencing installed – an activity that has occurred in other states facing similar funding/wildlife fencing issues. Dent says that they also considering two other options: a special hunt in the Thorpe area where harvested meat would be donated to local food banks and allowing farmers and ranchers depredation permits that allows them to kill “elk straying onto their property,” according the HeraldNet.


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