Elk “Alive and Kicking” After Tribes’ Transfer

TOUTLE (June 9, 2005) – The second round in an ongoing tribal effort to bolster a weak population of elk in the North Cascades was highly successful, tribal officials said. All ten of the elk transferred from the Mt. St. Helens area near Toutle, where elk are plentiful, survived their relocation to the North Sound region.

This year’s transfer adds to the 41 animals the tribes and the state worked together to transfer to the dwindling bands of the Nooksack elk herd.

“We’re happy and proud that all of the animals we brought north have survived,” said Todd Wilbur, Swinomish, chair of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission’s inter-tribal wildlife committee. “Now, 10 more elk are alive and kicking in core habitat for the Nooksack elk herd.”

During two spring capture sessions this March, the tribes worked with state and local groups to transfer six cow elk and four calves from the wilderness around Mt. St. Helens to the North Sound. This continues a multi-year effort by the tribal and state co-managers to rebuild the North Cascades elk herd, also known as the Nooksack elk herd, by removing animals from the overpopulated Toutle River Valley.

The tribes will continue monitoring the collared animals at least once a week for the next several years.

“Elk and other wildlife have always been essential for the tribes,” said Scott Schuyler, natural resources policy coordinator for the Upper Skagit Tribe. “Allowing elk populations to vanish is simply not an option for us.”

Besides assistance from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, the tribes received valuable volunteer assistance from Mark Smith and Jim Marks of the Mount St. Helens Preservation Society. The Yakama Nation also provided material assistance.

“This shows what can happen when we work together,” said Shawn Yanity, chairman of the Stillaguamish Tribe. “The tribes are committed to preserving natural resources for future generations, and cooperation is the way we want to achieve that goal.”

Another capture is tentatively planned for mid- to late summer.

The Point Elliott tribes include Lummi, Muckleshoot, Nooksack, Sauk-Suiattle, Stillaguamish, Suquamish, Swinomish, Tulalip and Upper Skagit.

Biologists believe a number of factors contributed to the decline in the North Cascades elk herd’s population, including habitat changes and over-hunting. WDFW and the tribes have forbidden hunting in the herd’s core area since 1993, and hunting will not be allowed until elk populations have reached recovery goals.

For more information, conact: Jeff Shaw, Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, (360) 424-8226; Todd Wilbur, (360) 466-3163; Shawn Yanity, (360)652-7362, ext. 282; Scott Schuyler, (360) 854-7009