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Colockum Elk Herd Management Plan

Dec 25, 2007
The fifth largest in Washington State, the Colockum Elk Herd is an important resource for the state. It provides a number of benefits, from cultural and aesthetic to recreational and economic, to a wide range of people, including recreationists like photographers and hunters, local communities, and Native American tribes. Maintaining this herd at a healthy population that does not interfere unduly with human activities, but can sustain itself, is an important service to the people of Washington State.

The Colockum Elk Herd is managed under a five year plan that has three primary goals. The first of these goals is the protection and perpetuation of the elk and of their habitats, with the intent of creating a healthy, productive population of animals for the enjoyment and betterment of Washington State. The second is the management of elk for a number of purposes, including educational and aesthetic purposes, recreational purposes including elk viewing, hunting, and photography, scientific study of these animals, and ceremonial and cultural uses by Native Americans. The third major goal of the current elk management program is to maintain the elk herd to produce a sustainable yield.

The management plan has identified specific management strategies and objectives toward the implementation of these goals. Some of these objectives are as follows:

The maintenance of the elk population at an objective of 4,500 animals. This number is permitted to fluctuate by plus or minus fiver percent in the surveyed portion of the winter range. Included in this goal is assessing the habitat limitations for this herd, as well as the long term social tolerances. Depending on the results of these assessments, the population objective should be adjusted accordingly.

In addition, the post-season elk population should be maintained at specific ratios within the surveyed area of the Colockum Herd, in accordance with the objectives of the Game Management Plan. These objectives currently stand at twelve to twenty bulls to each hundred cows. Two to ten percent of the subpopulation of bulls should be made up of mature animals. Total bull mortality, including hunting and natural causes, should be less than fifty percent of the total bull population.

It is also important for the habitat quality of elk to be improved in general, and disturbance to the herd minimized. This is especially vital during critical periods during the year, such as calving, and other times when the population could be upset by human disturbance.

Landowner support for a good elk management program is likewise important. Because of this, the plan includes provisions for minimizing the damage to private lands caused by elk, hopefully minimizing complaints by landowners and improving their opinion of the Coluckum elk management strategy.

Public awareness of the elk herd will help residents of the state to understand the important and beautiful natural resource that it represents. Elk viewing opportunities and the chance to photograph these animals are to be developed where and when possible.

The plan also includes the goal of working cooperatively with the Yakama Nation in regards to the collection and sharing of data pertaining to the herd. This will help ensure that both parties have accurate information about the Colockum Elk Herd, and can manage the animals and their environment accordingly.

On state and federal lands, as well as on private ones, elk habitat should be improved and protected. The management plan for this heard includes provisions for working with the managers of public land to do so, including the DNR, WDFW, and USFS. Private land managers should not be excluded from this cooperative attempt to improve the living situation of the herd, and should be encouraged to protect habitat on their own land.

Research to provide the appropriate data for management of the elk and their habitat should not be forgotten. This research can be used where needed to help provide the information needed to assess goals and practices and revise them where needed.

While spending priorities for the management of this herd have been identified and created for the duration of the plan, the spending is not guaranteed. The availability of funds and the creation of necessary partnerships are required for the plan to succeed fully. Management of elk as a natural resource is important if they are to continue providing their benefits to the people of Washington State.
About the Author
Scott Peters is an avid deer hunter, outdoorsman and rifle scope retailer. For more information on scopes please go to Leupold Hunting Scopes.
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