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Washington State Elk Herd Plan: Mount St. Helens Elk Herd

Category: Wildlife Research and Management - Game Management and Conservation

Date Published: November 2006

Number of Pages: 61

Author(s): Patrick J. Miller and Scott M. McCorquodale, Ph.D.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY:

The Mount St. Helens Elk Herd is one of ten herds identified in the state. It is one of the most important elk herds in the state as it provides significant recreational, aesthetic, and economic benefit to the citizens of Washington.

The purpose of this document is to provide direction for the management of the Mount St. Helens elk resource into the future. This is a 5-year plan subject to amendment. Before the fifth year this plan should be updated, re-evaluated, amended, and implemented for another 5-year period. The plan will serve as a valuable reference document and guideline for the Department, agency cooperators, landowners, tribes, and the general public. Priority management activities can be implemented as funding and other resources become available.

The three primary goals of the Mount St. Helens Elk Herd Plan are: (1) to preserve, protect, perpetuate, manage, and enhance elk habitat to ensure healthy productive populations; (2) to manage elk for a variety of recreational, educational, and aesthetic purposes, including hunting, scientific study, and photography; and (3) to manage harvest of the elk herd for a sustained yield.

Specific elk herd and habitat objectives, problems, and strategies are identified in the Plan. These are priority objectives identified to address specific problems in elk management. To accomplish each objective, a variety of strategies have been proposed. The following objectives have been identified:

  1. Manage the Mount St. Helens Elk Herd using the best available science.
  2. Manage all open-entry elk units for post-hunting season bull ratios consistent with the Game Management Plan (12 to 20 bulls per 100 cows) in conjunction with overall bull mortality rates < 50%. Manage quality GMUs for minimum post-hunting season bull:cow ratios at approximately 20 bulls per 100 cows, in conjunction with overall bull mortality rates of < 40%.
  3. Manage the Mount Saint Helens elk population in balance with both the habitat and cultural carrying capacities of the region. The current population goal for achieving this balance is approximately 10,000 elk. Population adjustment will be made over the next 5-8 years, beginning in 2007.
  4. Minimize human conflicts and property damage caused by elk.
  5. Support public appreciation of the elk resource and non-consumptive values of elk including viewing and photographic opportunities.
  6. Continue to monitor the health and winter survival of elk wintering in GMU 522 (LooWitt) and the Mount St. Helens Wildlife Area.
  7. Improve the quantity and quality of elk habitat on the Mount St. Helen Wildlife Area.
  8. Maintain the current level of elk winter range along the Lewis River.
  9. Work with other agencies and private landowners to improve habitats for elk.

Spending priorities have been identified for the next 5 years. The recommended annual priority expenditures for the Mount St. Helens elk herd are as follows:

Priority Expenditure 1st Year 5 Years
Aerial elk surveys $25,000.00 $185,000.00
Habitat improvement $30,000.00 $125,000.00
Elk survival study N/A $200,000.00
Quantify elk forage condition $40,000.00 $120,000.00
Monitor elk body condition N/A $40,000.00
Monitor annual harvest $12,000.00 $60,000.00
TOTAL $147,000.00 $780,000.00