Another forum? Been there, done that, Gearhart officials said at the city’s March City Council meeting.
With elk incidents in Gearhart showing no signs of abatement, Gearhart officials again voiced frustration over a lack of options. Elk are causing property damage to golf courses, homes and menacing pedestrians and animals.
Gearhart wants “some answers” to increase safety. “What can we do? Public safety and health seem to be working against each other,” Sweet said.
City Administrator Chad Sweet said incidents have continued since the beginning of the year. “We’ve had some people who were blocked from walking, they were caught between the herd,” Sweet said. “We’ve had a lot of people complain about yards being trampled. It seems like the herd is as strong as ever, if not the strongest it’s ever been.”
In a response to a recent query to the state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife, wildlife biologist Herman Biederbeck encouraged city officials to hold a public forum on the elk. He suggested a meeting with the community would help provide better understanding.
A forum may not satisfy city officials, who say the city is well past the initial phases of elk management.
The city held a forum on the elk in 2014, and councilors remained skeptical that another forum would provide the answers they sought. At that time, Biederbeck spoke as part of a six-person panel that discussed the herd of Roosevelt elk that frequently visits Gearhart. More than 50 Gearhart residents attended that meeting.
Four years later, residents, businesses and city officials are still looking for answers. “Part of it is he (Biederbeck) needs more guidance from us as to what our concerns are,” Councilor Sue Lorain said. “I think if we want him to come, we should have specific things we want to address to him.”
“It would be interesting to find what their options are,” Councilor Paulina Cockrum said.
One possible action for the city available from the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife is “hazing,” City Attorney Peter Watts said. But what constitutes hazing is open for discussion. “I think some really hard guidelines from the state would be really beneficial so people don’t make a mistake and end up in trouble.”
Councilors suggested inviting ODFW officials to a council meeting to respond to questions.
“It seems to be happening more and more frequently,” Sweet said. “What other ideas can we do to protect properties? We want some real help from them for what we can do to improve the situation.”
In mid-March, the city reposted the state’s “safety tips” for elk encounters. Watch from a distance, be aware of your surroundings, and be aware of elk calving season were among the recommendations. Never pick up a calf or other young wildlife, they caution.