Two decades of tribal efforts to recover Nooksack elk are paying off, wildlife biologists noted during recent helicopter surveys.

Biologists estimate that the herd is continuing to grow, with surveys showing roughly 800 to 850 elk in the North Cascades area. Twenty years ago, the Nooksack elk population was about 1,700 elk. By 2003, the herd had declined to about 300 elk, largely because of degraded and disconnected habitat.

In addition to numerous restoration projects to improve elk forage, state and tribal co-managers boosted the Nooksack herd in 2003 and 2005 by relocating about 100 cow elk from the Mount St. Helens region.

One of the strongest signs that recovery efforts were working came in 2007, when tribal and state wildlife co-managers determined that the Nooksack herd was stable enough to support a small hunt of 30 elk.

Limited hunts have taken place each year since then. This year, non-tribal hunters and Point Elliott Treaty tribal hunters will have the opportunity to share the harvest of 40 bull elk. The Point Elliott Treaty tribes are Lummi, Nooksack, Muckleshoot, Sauk-Suiattle, Stillaguamish, Suquamish, Swinomish, Tulalip and Upper Skagit.

Tribal and state wildlife managers had agreed to stop hunting the herd in the 1990s, because of the population decline.

For more information, contact: Chris Madsen, wildlife biologist, NWIFC, 360-528-4366 or cmadsen@nwifc.org; Kari Neumeyer, information officer, NWIFC, 360-424-8226 or kneumeyer@nwifc.org.