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State has plans for your next elk hunt

Elk at the Oak Creek Wildlife Area near Yakima. (TJ MULLINAX / Yakima Herald-Republic)
Elk at the Oak Creek Wildlife Area near Yakima. (TJ MULLINAX / Yakima Herald-Republic)

Proposals would end northeast Washington either-sex elk seasons

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 draft plan will be presented in public meetings this week in Spokane and Colville. It’s also available for review on the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife website, where a link provides opportunity to submit comments through Feb. 10.

“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,” said Kevin Robinette, the agency’s regional wildlife manager. “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 hunting for “any elk” 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,” it 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 coincides with the separate but related revision of Washington’s hunting rules for the 2012-2014 seasons.

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

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

The public can comment on hunting rules revisions before they’re presented to the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission.

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

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