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Author Topic: Selkirk Elk Herd Ramblings  (Read 3604 times)

Offline cougforester

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Selkirk Elk Herd Ramblings
« on: September 20, 2020, 04:38:21 PM »
I just sent off an email to the biologists for the NE.

Quote
1. Pursuant to the first bullet point on page vii of the Management Plan, has any formal survey protocol actually been developed or implemented? The 2020 hunting prospects document states quite clearly that these have not, and instead use surrogates. It would seem that as more eyes come onto the NE in all facets, including wolves, mountain caribou extinction, CWD and other diseases, more formal data collection of true elk population numbers should be pursued.

2. The Selkirk Herd has been supplemented with 8 past releases of elk in the past, with the most being in 2000. The stated goal of the department for this sub-herd is to grow the population to an upper limit of 2,500 elk. Are any more releases/supplementations being considered?

We saw some incredible country, throughout both private timberlands and public ownership, that was either devoid of elk or was used solely as transitional habitat. Everything weíve heard about the elk up north prior to hunting them was theyíre highly nomadic, move often and frequently, and are in small bands. To my amateur eye, there could be significantly more elk than 2,500. Between the 3 counties, there is 6,081 sq miles of land, of which the GMUs make up 4,629 sq miles. Using the 2500 mark, that would be 1 elk per 1.85  sq mi (1 elk/ 1185 acres). Yes, there are cities, roads, developed areas to take out of these acres, but that sure still seems like low densities.


The areas I hunted in Montana last year, while slightly over objective, had roughly 2,000 elk in 630 square miles, which equates to 1 elk per 0.32 square miles or 1 elk per 202 acres.

This rolls into another issue of relating this OTC opportunity to declining bull tags in the Yakima/ Blues herd. If this herd could be augmented and increase populations, theoretically less hunters would be chasing spikes during general season in the 300 series GMUs and could hunt in the NE with a reasonable chance of harvesting a mature bull, or any elk for that matter and not chase true spike unicorns. That would allow more bulls to reach mature age, and should increase tag allocations generating more revenue to the department for application fees. Elk from areas that consistently cause crop damage could be relocated to the north and help resolve two issues with one action. Could the Selkirk herd be used to help improve herd conditions for the other major populations in the state?

3. The five year average for all weapon categories for elk harvest, regardless of sex or species, from the 2020 Hunting Prospects is 230. The table in the Selkirk Management Plan from 2001-2010 for the Pend Oreille sub-herd shows an average of 212. Current population estimates for the Pend Oreille Sub-herd shows estimates 1,500 animals, which would leave about 1,300 animals post hunting season. Iíve attached a table showing where elk mortality would come from and animals theoretically left on the landscape post-hunting season. Itís not 100% accurate, as Iíve reduced wolf kills from 17 elk per wolf per year to 10, since Iím assuming they would eat other prey (deer/moose) and not just elk (page 18 of Selkirk Elk Plan).I also used the minimum confirmed population levels, so odds are these numbers and wolf kills are even higher. I also assumed reasonable levels for bear/cougar/poaching based on other data in the elk plan. Are elk numbers in the Selkirk herd being considered to help benefit the growing predator populations in the NE?


As wolf populations should continue to grow, they will need more prey to feed on. The recent move to start black bear season on August 1 statewide and allow 2 bears statewide should help mitigate some of those kills by bears as more hunters harvest more black bears. However wolf populations are going to continue to expand for the foreseeable future and could shift their attention to already vulnerable moose populations for larger prey if elk begin to decline. It would appear that supplementing this herd could further decrease livestock predations, as there are wild sources of prey that wolves could chase and reduce the number of wolves the department would have to lethally remove.


4. Only 1.5 claims of ag damage by the Selkirk herd were recorded during 2001-2010. There is good logic in the Selkirk plan on page 24 regarding ag damage that shows how these costs can be mitigated, and how additional hunters in the area pursuing big game could contribute to fund additional damage claims that may occur with increased elk populations.

5. On page 29, the second question stated on the research needs section seems like a great way to collect data easily and efficiently related to body condition and nutrition and how that relates to overall herd health. I would like to see more of that pushed.

6. New research shows that closed roads are great for security, but actually offer little benefit to elk  if there is no habitat to utilize behind the closed roads and in the secured areas. As there will come a push for more intensive management of federal lands in the Selkirk herd area (hopefully state as well) due to our recent fire season and smoke issues, wildlife managers should use this as an opportunity to further expand habitat improvement projects. What other planned work does the department have to improve habitat for the Selkirk herd in the coming years?


In summary, I believe this herd has an excellent opportunity for growth and improvement based on visual observation of habitat quality, current low density of elk, and stated goals from the department wanting to grow this herd.


Any information you could share on plans to follow through on the management plan, or ways that volunteers could help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for your time.

I knew going into this season that elk numbers were low, but my partner and I just could not wrap our heads around why this herd is being neglected.

More documentation can be found here:
https://wdfw.wa.gov/sites/default/files/publications/02167/district_1_hunting_prospects_2020.pdf
wdfw.wa.gov/sites/default/files/publications/01350/wdfw01350.pdf

I'd suggest giving these a read. There's some really good information in there, and I think there's tremendous opportunity to improve hunting here that would in turn benefit a number of other goals that WDFW has.

I'd love more input on this as I'm new to that herd and region, but these were just some of our initial thoughts while stomping through an absurd amount of country that didn't have elk in it.

Offline Buckhunter24

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Re: Selkirk Elk Herd Ramblings
« Reply #1 on: September 20, 2020, 05:19:29 PM »
From the federal side, the stewardship sale prescriptions often aim for increasing aspen stocking. I believe one of the purposes of that is for increased elk habitat. I can't find that in writing anywhere in the 10 year forest plan though. There sure is a lot of ground up there for them. Nice work on the bull :tup:


Offline buckfvr

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Re: Selkirk Elk Herd Ramblings
« Reply #2 on: September 20, 2020, 05:37:38 PM »
To believe them would be gullible.  It was any elk up here for years as they managed the herds in the interest of the timber companies who dont like them.  The fix was when they changed from any elk to bulls only, modern and muzzleloader, and no more cows late archery, as their (wdfw) attempt at "increasing the herds for more opportunity", which in its timing coincided nicely with the proliferation of the wolf packs.

Some of the guys took them for their word initially, but soon all/most recognized they took cows from hunters and gave them to the wolves.

N.E. Wa. could hold many more elk if they were managed differently, along with the forests.  I am of the opinion wdfw can not be believed under any circumstances as they are thumb screwed by special interests groups and politics.

Offline cougforester

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Re: Selkirk Elk Herd Ramblings
« Reply #3 on: September 20, 2020, 06:02:13 PM »
I don't know if I'm quite ready to believe completely the timber industry being responsible for a lack of elk in the NE. If that was the case, why aren't all the west side units any elk that are primarily industrial forest? Many harvest designs in the NE don't need to be reforested, which is primarily where the cost of elk hits timber companies.

I definitely am cautious of what WDFW publicly states as their reasoning for things when their actions point to other things.

I'm curious to see what, if any, response from them I get on this and I'm looking forward to learning more about this herd and it's history.

Offline buckfvr

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Re: Selkirk Elk Herd Ramblings
« Reply #4 on: September 20, 2020, 06:08:12 PM »
Timber companies are large and powerful players, not solely to blame for sure, but certainly in the mix.  Wed all love to see elk in numbers usually associated with 1.1 million acres of national forest (Colville NF), and surrounding areas, but the entire focus on n.e.wa. is whitetail free for all.  High yield of young bucks.  Enough folks turn out for that so wdfw seems disinterested in newa becoming an elk destination as well.

Offline Alan K

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Re: Selkirk Elk Herd Ramblings
« Reply #5 on: September 20, 2020, 06:08:32 PM »
What makes you say/think timber companies do not like elk?  Admittedly I'm only involved in timber management on the west side, but ungulate browse damage is rarely significant enough to have a meaningful impact on a stand. Cedar is about the only crop species that get hammered over here.  :twocents:

If there are agricultural lands, especially on winter range, that's be a more likely reason. That or competition for winter range forage with other more desired species?  :dunno:

Offline cougforester

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Re: Selkirk Elk Herd Ramblings
« Reply #6 on: September 20, 2020, 06:23:09 PM »
What makes you say/think timber companies do not like elk?  Admittedly I'm only involved in timber management on the west side, but ungulate browse damage is rarely significant enough to have a meaningful impact on a stand. Cedar is about the only crop species that get hammered over here.  :twocents:

If there are agricultural lands, especially on winter range, that's be a more likely reason. That or competition for winter range forage with other more desired species?  :dunno:
Here's what the Selkirk Elk Plan has to say about competing species. Take from it what you will....

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Offline buckfvr

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Re: Selkirk Elk Herd Ramblings
« Reply #7 on: September 20, 2020, 06:30:04 PM »
My bad, but I believed what I was told at one of the meetings from someone who we should all be able to believe.  That being said, elk were blamed for killing many seedlings each spring that were planted the year before and were one of the first early spring browse targets of elk.  Not stating as fact, just what I was told.

Also, over the years, there have been plenty of at times free flowing depredation elk tags for wintering elk getting in to hay barns and such....again this I was told by insider and farmer who was a habitual depredation tag recipient.

Offline Ridgeratt

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Re: Selkirk Elk Herd Ramblings
« Reply #8 on: September 20, 2020, 06:37:47 PM »
If you research the trend reports from the wdfw back in the early 2000. Dana Base wrote that the position of the wdfw was to not encourage the expansion of the elk herd west of the Columbia River. Some place in all my files I have the report. But it still should be public information.

Offline cougforester

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Re: Selkirk Elk Herd Ramblings
« Reply #9 on: September 20, 2020, 06:48:54 PM »
If you research the trend reports from the wdfw back in the early 2000. Dana Base wrote that the position of the wdfw was to not encourage the expansion of the elk herd west of the Columbia River. Some place in all my files I have the report. But it still should be public information.

The Selkirk Elk Plan that was written in 2014 clearly states that they have a desire to INCREASE the Selkirk herd by roughly 1,000 elk.

EDIT: Did you mean east of the river?

Offline buckfvr

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Re: Selkirk Elk Herd Ramblings
« Reply #10 on: September 20, 2020, 06:54:35 PM »
So, 6 years later, how do the herds of then and now compare ?   How have they been impacted by predators and is there tribal hunting ?

Offline Bango skank

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Re: Selkirk Elk Herd Ramblings
« Reply #11 on: September 20, 2020, 07:02:49 PM »
So, 6 years later, how do the herds of then and now compare ?   

Oh huge improvement!  :chuckle:

Offline cougforester

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Re: Selkirk Elk Herd Ramblings
« Reply #12 on: September 20, 2020, 07:05:54 PM »
So, 6 years later, how do the herds of then and now compare ?   How have they been impacted by predators and is there tribal hunting ?

Reported harvest has gone up slightly. But any herd gains have likely been negated by wolf predation. I'm not saying they're meeting their stated goals, but that it's at least on paper. I think their goal of 2500 is still ridiculously low and should be at least more in the 3500 level or more. The habitat is there, so they should be taking off.

They say tribal hunting is pretty negligible since it seems the tribes up north don't have off-reservation hunting rights and have to abide by state laws when hunting off reservation. Some elk for sure get whacked on reservation, but I don't think it's the same impact as other areas in the state.

Again, all this is being pulled from their 2020 Hunting Prospects and 2014 Selkirk Elk Herd Management Plan. This is where my skepticism of WDFW comes play with what they say they want to do and what they actually do. On paper it sounds acceptable, but could be better. In practice it's pretty pathetic.

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Re: Selkirk Elk Herd Ramblings
« Reply #13 on: September 20, 2020, 07:23:37 PM »
Pre wolf introduction elk herd or 17K down to a bit over 2K now. I talked to an old boy a few years ago who was present when they initially released the first breeding pairs. The idiots were whooping and hollering as they watched/released into the Selway Bitterroot Wilderness, the evil that would decimate the elk herd and pretty much reduce the moose herd to unimaginable low numbers.  Great times were living in. Shoot, stomp every one of those *censored*s you/we can (Iím talking about the wolves BTW  :rolleyes:). Would love to ďintroduceĒ a few starving wolves into the homes of some of the fools who support/have supported dropping a new apex predator into established eco systems.
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Offline Ridgeratt

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Re: Selkirk Elk Herd Ramblings
« Reply #14 on: September 20, 2020, 07:27:46 PM »
If you research the trend reports from the wdfw back in the early 2000. Dana Base wrote that the position of the wdfw was to not encourage the expansion of the elk herd west of the Columbia River. Some place in all my files I have the report. But it still should be public information.

The Selkirk Elk Plan that was written in 2014 clearly states that they have a desire to INCREASE the Selkirk herd by roughly 1,000 elk.

EDIT: Did you mean east of the river?


They were talking about units 101,105

 


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