From a press release-Gov. Jay Inslee has signed into law a bill that directs the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) to conduct an elk management pilot project to reduce elk highway collisions.

Rep. Tom Dent sponsored House Bill 1353 to address the growing problem of the Colockum herd in Kittitas County.

“Now that the bill is signed, I am eager to move forward with this pilot project and get some herd management tools in place,” said Dent, R-Moses Lake. “I have been talking about the public safety threat the size of this herd poses to those traveling the roads in Kittitas County for quite some time. This legislation couldn’t come at a better time. Just last month, a woman was injured when she hit two elk on the roadway south of Ellensburg.”

Last year, on Vantage Hill, more than 60 elk were killed in collisions.

Dent said dangerous roadways is not the only negative effect the Colockum herd is having on the region.

“Our local economy, particularly the agricultural industry, is also struggling with the elk. The herd is getting into our farmers’ hay crops and barns,” said Dent. “Obviously current efforts to manage the Colockum herd have not worked. We are hopeful with new flexibility and additional management options we can start controlling their population.”

The pilot project would include increased use of special depredation hunts and general hunting opportunities of the Colockum herd, establishment of a permitting mechanism to allow a person to feed elk by permit only, and use of managed livestock grazing to attract elk away from roads and private property.

According to the WDFW, a manageable population for the herd would be about 4,500. Currently, it is estimated the Colockum elk herd population exceeds 6,000.

The bill goes into effect July 22, 2017.

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