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New Elk Plan

Wildlife management

Ever heard of the Colockama elk herd?

Not yet, but you may one of these days if the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife decides, for administrative purposes, to combine the elk of the Yakima and the Colockum.

This was just one of the ideas covered at a recent meeting in Wenatchee to discuss a draft of the Colockum Elk Herd Plan.

Department spokesman Steve Pozzanghera said, before the elk plan becomes reality, an Environmental Impact Statement has to be made and all facets will have to be gone over with a fine-toothed comb.

The two herds originally came from a transplant of 100 elk from Yellowstone Park in 1913 and 1915, said Roger McKeel, regional wildlife manager in Yakima. The original release was west of Cleman Mountain near Yakima and east of Ellensburg near Schnebly Coulee.

“The Colockum herd ranges from an elevation of 700 feet along the Columbia River to over 7,000 feet at the Cascade crest,” he said.

During the spring, summer and fall, the elk are widely dispersed with the Forest Service managing the greatest percentage of the habitat. The winter range is managed mostly by the state Wildlife Department. Depending on the season, individual private landowners control about one quarter of the habitat.

Proposed management strategies include increasing the herd from 5,000 to 6,500 animals.

That, however, will take more creativity to contend with damage the elk would do to private land during winter. McKeel said an elk fence 25 miles long would be needed to prevent elk from moving south and damaging crop land in the Ellensburg valley.