Outdoors blog

Meetings set to explain Northeastern Washington elk management plan

Dick Rivers packs load of elk meat after hunt in Pend Oreille County. (Rich Landers)
Dick Rivers packs load of elk meat after hunt in Pend Oreille County. (Rich Landers)

HUNTING -- The luxury of targeting  ”any elk” during general hunting seasons in portions of northeastern Washington would end under a proposed plan to boost numbers of elk in Okanogan, Ferry and Stevens counties.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has set three meetings, starting at 7 p.m., to present the draft plan for public comment:

  • Jan. 26, at the Okanogan County Public Utility District Main Office, 1331 2nd Ave. N., in Okanogan.
  • Feb. 1, at Center Place, 2426 N. Discovery Place, in Spokane Valley.
  • Feb. 2, at the Northeast Washington Fairgrounds, 317 W. Astor Ave. in Colville.

The draft plan is available for review here, where a link provides opportunity to submit comments through Feb. 10.

The current plan has called for limiting the number of elk in most of northeastern Washington primarily to prevent elk from becoming a nuisance to landowners on the region’s limited  winter range, wildlife managers say.

“We have managed elk in this part of the state—where elk groups are small and scattered—with liberal hunting rules to keep elk numbers low and minimize agricultural damage,” Robinette said. “But we have heard from hunters that they want to see more elk.”

Paving the way for the revised plan are efforts by the Colville National Forest and Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation to improve elk habitat in the region, he said.

Robinette said the proposed plan should result in greater elk numbers by shifting from ‘any elk’ hunting seasons to restrictions on antlerless elk hunting in the Pend Oreille sub-herd areas, including units 101, 105, 108, 121 and  204.

“If agricultural damage problems should arise, we would address them through a variety of tools we use throughout the state,” Robinette said.

Although the document is titled “Selkirk Elk Herd Plan,” covers elk management in Pend Oreille, Spokane, Stevens, Ferry, Lincoln, Whitman, and eastern Okanogan counties –Game Management Units 101 – 142 and 204.

The plan considers elk in two distinct sub-herds–the Pend Oreille sub-herd and the Spokane sub-herd.

The release of the draft elk plan will coincide with the separate but related process to revise Washington’s hunting rules for the 2012-2014 seasons.

WDFW plans to release its revised hunting rule package at the end of January, Robinette said. Those proposals would include the elk plan’s proposal to end the ”any elk” seasons, he said.

That rules revision package also will formalize controversial proposals still being formulated to change the Master Hunter late elk seasons on the lands surrounding Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge.

The public comment period on the hunting rules revisions will begin when the package is released at the end of the month, Robinette said.

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission is scheduled to review proposed new hunt rules during its March meeting in Moses Lake. The commission would vote on adopting the 2012-2014 rules in April.

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Rich Landers
Rich Landers writes and photographs stories for a wide range of outdoors coverage, including a Sunday feature section and a Thursday column. He also writes the Outdoors Blog.

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