Editorial: Solve persistent Northwest elk problems

Wildlife managers in Oregon, Washington and Idaho need to come up with an effective solution to the elk problem, and soon.

Published on March 1, 2018 8:49AM

Ten state-managed feeding sites along the Elkhorn Range in northeastern Oregon are intended to keep elk and deer from venturing onto private land where they can damage fields, fences and haystacks. Many ranchers across the Northwest report losing tens of thousands of dollars to elk damage.

Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife

Ten state-managed feeding sites along the Elkhorn Range in northeastern Oregon are intended to keep elk and deer from venturing onto private land where they can damage fields, fences and haystacks. Many ranchers across the Northwest report losing tens of thousands of dollars to elk damage.


Ask ranchers or farmers across much of the Northwest what they think of elk.

“They’re robbing feed that is intended for livestock,” said Veril Nelson, who ranches near Sutherlin, Ore. He estimates 50 to 60 elk dine on his pasture each night. A mature elk eats as much as a 600- to 700-pound steer, he said.

Tim Miller of Siletz, Ore., has built 6-foot electric New Zealand fence around two pastures and is fencing a third to keep elk out. Another rancher, near Newport, Ore., quit ranching because of the elk problem.

The elk problem has migrated to coastal towns such as Warrenton and Gearhart, where the mushrooming population of elk has menaced citizens, torn up a golf course and caused traffic accidents.

The problem isn’t confined to Oregon.

Near Salmon, Idaho, farmer Lowell Cerise told the Capital Press last fall that elk were eating his hay crop. Near Challis, Idaho, elk have been raiding rancher Steve Bachman’s haystacks.

And in Skagit County, Wash., farmer Randy Good estimated in a letter to the editor that local farmers lose $10,000 to $15,000 a year from elk damaging their feed crops.

It appears to us that state wildlife managers across the Northwest have a huge problem: the nearly 300,000 elk that live in the region.

It’s the states’ job to manage its wildlife, but for some reason some wildlife agencies appear to be shy about doing that. Feeding sites have been set up in some spots in northeastern Oregon, but overall there are just too many elk. They overrun ranches, farms, towns and anywhere else they find food.

The irony is that many hunters see elk as a highly prized game animal. It would seem that extending the season on elk in many places would take care of the problem. Another solution would be to trap and kill some of the elk and donate the meat to food banks.

But we’re not wildlife experts. Though it’s tempting, we wouldn’t even try to tell wildlife managers how to do their jobs.

Instead, we’ll look forward to wildlife managers in Oregon, Washington and Idaho coming up with an effective solution to the elk problem, and soon.



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