An update on Colockum elk herd research and elk winter-range closures will be provided by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) staff in a meeting here Jan. 11.
The public meeting will start at 6 p.m., at the Hal Holmes Center, 209 N. Ruby St., in Ellensburg.
For the past four years, about 44,000 acres of the Whiskey Dick and Quilomene wildlife areas, northwest of Vantage, have been closed to motor vehicles from February through April to protect wintering elk from disturbance. Portions of elk winter ranges on the Oak Creek, Wenas and L.T. Murray wildlife areas are also closed during the same period.
No changes to the closure schedule are proposed this year.
"Before the seasonal closure, recreational use of these areas had increased in late winter and early spring, and that can cause elk to abandon the wildlife areas for private property," said Ted Clausing, WDFW’s regional wildlife manager in Yakima. "Ideally, the elk need to remain on their winter range well into April to stay nourished, maintain the health of the herd, and limit their impact to private property."
When elk leave wildlife areas and move to adjacent private land, they compete with cattle for forage and damage crops and stock fences, said Anthony Novack, WDFW’s elk and deer conflict specialist in Ellensburg.
WDFW began monitoring elk in the area in fall 2008, capturing some of the animals and equipping them with Global Positioning System (GPS) devices to track their movement. Since then, over 150 elk have been equipped with tracking collars, and 43 elk are still being tracked.
The monitoring will continue until May, when final data from the collars will be collected. Final results of the study will assist wildlife managers in making long-term decisions about the winter-range closures.