Olympia: Project moves 81 elk

State wildlife officials wrap up relocation effort


OLYMPIA, WA - 3/29/02 -- State wildlife officials have completed an elk relocation project after transporting 81 live elk to the upper end of the Green River watershed near Mount Rainier National Park.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife wanted to rebuild the elk herd in the Green River game management unit, and to reduce the number of elk along the Chehalis River in southwest Washington.

One calf was killed by a cougar shortly after release and eight other elk died as a result of capture efforts, department spokesman Craig Bartlett said.

But necropsies showed that several of those animals already were sick and may have died soon anyway.

Two suffered from pneumonia, one had a fungus in its liver and spleen and another had fluid on its spinal column, Bartlett said.

Most of the animals came from along the Chehalis River, four came from the Kamilche Valley and 22 from Hanaford Creek near the Centralia Steam Plant.

The final tally of 80 live elk relocated falls within the department's goal of moving 75 to 100 animal to boost the reproductive rate of the elk herd in the Green River unit, Bartlett said.

Critics have complained that the department's elk relocation efforts have been intrusive and unannounced.

But Fish and Wildlife officials say they also have received complaints from farmers about elk damage, particularly to fences. And officials tried to notify property owners in the area of capture operations.

To capture the animals, wildlife biologists in low-flying helicopters shot the elk with tranquilizer darts. The animals are given a medical checkup before being hauled to the release site in the upper Green River drainage.

Some hunters complained that elk were rounded up just so hunters in the Green River unit can shoot them.

But Fish and Wildlife and the Muckleshoot Tribe game managers have agreed to keep the unit closed to all hunting until the herd reaches at least 350 animals. And that's at least two years away.

The goal for the unit is a sustainable herd of 500 animals.


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