Tribe’s Elk Trap A Win-Win Solution To “Nuisance Animal” Problem

ARLINGTON (June 10, 2004) — There are few sights more majestic than a massive elk in the wild, a fact to which hunters, hikers and local residents of all stripes can testify.

If you’re a farmer, though, that majesty might be undermined by the sight of a big bull eating the corn you worked hard to plant, or the feed you’ve set out for livestock.

The Stillaguamish Tribe has a mutually beneficial solution, though, one that will get elk away from farms and back into the wilderness where they can roam free.

The tribe has purchased a new corral trap that will help Point Elliot Treaty tribes continue joint efforts to augment of a local elk herd next year. In the meantime, the trap will help the Stillaguamish and other local tribes remove troublesome elk from populated areas.

“Wandering elk can be a nuisance for landowners,” said Shawn Yanity, fisheries director with the Stillaguamish Tribe. “We want to help eliminate that nuisance without harming the animals. With this corral trap, we can protect farmers’ crops from damage and help preserve our wild elk populations at the same time.”

Point Elliot tribes – including Stillaguamish, Tulalip, Lummi, Nooksack, Swinomish, Upper Skagit, Sauk-Suiattle, Muckleshoot and Suquamish – historically hunted elk from the Nooksack elk herd. But in recent years, habitat degradation and loss has reduced the herd to levels unsuitable for hunting. Since 1995, tribes have forsworn hunting of the Nooksack herd in the best interests of the resource. The tribes’ aims are to protect the herd from extinction and, eventually, return elk populations to levels supporting sustainable harvest.

“The health of wildlife resources is important to the tribes,” said Yanity. “There are so many things tribes can do to improve conditions for wild elk, and this is just another way of helping.”

The trap is designed to safely capture 10-15 animals at a time. Unlike other capture methods, the corral doesn’t require humans in the immediate vicinity. Elk wander into the corral in search of food, and when the time is right, a spotter triggers the door from a safe distance.

“What’s neat about it is the elk have the freedom of walking into the trap on their own without being chased or feeling confined,” said Yanity. “It’s sometimes necessary to pursue elk with a helicopter and a tranquilizer gun, but this method involves less stress for the animal. When this trap slams shut, they aren’t going to see any human predators.”

After being captured, the animals can be transported to more remote areas that form their natural habitat. The corral trap also enables easy release of elderly or sick animals that might not be in good enough health to be transferred successfully.

Captured animals will be fitted with radio collars before release, which will help the tribal and state co-managers catalog information necessary to elk herd management.

The Lummi Nation, Nooksack Tribe and Upper Skagit Tribe have all expressed interest in using the Stillaguamish trap, or even purchasing some of their own.

Whether the trap is needed for research, problem animal transfer, or re-population efforts, Yanity said, the tribe wants other co-managers to feel free to use it.

“If there is a need for this trap – whether it’s the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife or other tribes that want to use it – we want it to be used,” said Yanity. “It’s intended to be there for the good of the resource, and for all of us.”


For more information contact: Jeff Shaw, Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, 360.424.8226, or 360.920.5094 cellular; Shawn Yanity, Stillaguamish Tribe, 360.652.7362, x282; Jen Sevigny, Stillaguamish Tribe, 360.435.2755, x24.