North Sound treaty tribes are continuing to help landowners keep problem elk off their property with the help of a $300,000 grant awarded to the Stillaguamish Tribe, with assistance from the Sauk-Suiattle Tribe.

The money comes from the state Department of Fish and Wildlife’s minor works fund and is a result of efforts by state Sen. Kirk Pearson, chairman of the Natural Resources and Parks Committee, to assist tribes with the work they’ve been doing for years.

“It’s unprecedented and really exciting to get this type of award and it will help us in our collaborations with the state and other tribes to provide non-lethal elk damage solutions for landowners in Skagit and Whatcom counties,” said Jennifer Sevigny, wildlife biologist for the Stillaguamish Tribe. “We are now finalizing a Memorandum of Understanding with the state as to how we plan to spend the funds over a two-year period.”

Stillaguamish is working with the Tulalip and Sauk-Suiattle tribes as well as other Point Elliott Treaty tribes to complete fencing projects to reduce elk damage to private property.

“We are already tracking a list of priority fences for landowners in Skagit and Whatcom counties so these funds will be used to address the needs on that list,” Sevigny said. “We are committed to help with elk conflict issues where we can. There are positive changes happening on the valley floor.”

mike and mollyThe tribes have found that elk exclusion fences are a long-term solution that decreases conflict between landowners and elk. Electric fencing options typically are more cost-efficient, take less time to install, and can be retrofitted into existing barbed wire or woven wire fences. Electric fencing can also be temporary and easily dismantled if necessary.

The most recent project is a six-strand electric fence in Concrete, where the cattle farm J&J Livestock has had 25 years of problems with elk grazing and knocking down fences.

“The fences have been breached as elk use the property as a corridor,” said Scott Witman, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife conflict specialist. “(The farmer) is looking for a way to be able to keep livestock contained on the outer perimeter of his property. He’s giving up 110 feet of his property so elk will have a corridor.”

The tribes also will be collaring a cow elk to learn how they move and react to the presence of an exclusion fence.

The design of the electric fences have evolved over time, said Michael Sevigny, wildlife manager for the Tulalip Tribes.

“It is very adaptable for the type of crop to be protected and the needs of the landowner,” he said. “We have fenced forested areas, open pastures and fields that experience flooding. We will continue to learn and improve the design with every fence that we construct. The money awarded to the Stillaguamish Tribe will go a long way to help many landowners affected by elk damage.”

For more information, contact: Jennifer Sevigny, biologist, Stillaguamish Tribe, 360-631-2372 or Jsevigny@stillaguamish.com; Kari Neumeyer, information officer, NWIFC, 360-528-4406 or kneumeyer@nwifc.org.