State wildlife managers plan to streamline policies to address problem elk following a run-in with an aggressive elk in Hammond.
Any guidance the state develops will likely be folded into a larger elk management strategy for North Coast cities grappling with growing conflicts between people and elk.
In late May, an elk who was protecting her newborn calf and charging at people and cars had to be tranquilized and relocated.
Local and state law enforcement shut down Seventh Street and agents from the Jewell Meadows Wildlife Area darted the animal. They loaded her and her calf into a trailer with the help of several residents.
“It’s a huge endeavor, I’m not going to lie,” said Sgt. Joe Warwick, of Oregon State Police’s Fish and Wildlife Division.
The Hammond elk posed an immediate safety issue and responders faced two options: dart her and attempt to relocate her with the calf, or euthanize her, “which none of us want to do, especially when there’s basically a newborn laying in the grass,” Warwick said.
Herman Biederbeck, a state wildlife biologist based in Tillamook, has been directed to develop a short guidance document for state wildlife staff. He expects situations like the Hammond elk to happen again given the history of interactions.
They dealt with a similar situation in Gearhart two years ago, he said.
State troopers would normally be the ones to euthanize an animal. When it comes to darting and relocation, they turn to state Department of Fish and Wildlife staff. However, the closest field offices are at Jewell Meadows and in Tillamook, and not every staff member is authorized to dart elk.
Warrenton and Gearhart are struggling with what appears to be a growing elk population in increasingly urban areas. The cities, along with private and public property owners and other stakeholders, hope to develop a suite of options with the help of Oregon Solutions, an organization based out of Portland State University’s National Policy Consensus Center.
Gov. Kate Brown gave the project her approval in April and the Clatsop Plains Elk Collaborative held its first meeting the day before the aggressive elk showed up in Hammond in May.
For Warrenton Mayor Henry Balensifer, one of the co-facilitators for the collaborative, the incident doesn’t change the group’s overall goal.
“We’re going through this process to create a toolkit so we can have something to enact as a policy that’s acceptable to everyone at the table,” he said.
In the past, people have asked the state if it is possible to reduce herds by simply relocating elk.
But relocation was not a solution the state was interested in considering, a position unlikely to change now.
Instead, the guidance document from Biederbeck will focus on how wildlife employees respond to isolated emergency situations like the one in Hammond. He expects it will end up being part of the elk management plan developed with Oregon Solutions.
“What we hope to do with this guidance document is just to identify some general areas where elk can be relocated in these crisis situations,” Biederbeck said. “I wouldn’t see us identifying a bunch of sites for translocations of large groups of animals.
“I just don’t think that’s going to be in the cards, but we’re going to have to sort that all out.”
Wildlife agents clipped ear tags on the elk from Hammond. The elk relocated from Gearhart a few years ago was also tagged before it was released.
“So we can tell right away if this animal that we translocated up the Coast Range is right back into trouble again or not,” Biederbeck said.
It is possible the state may put radio collars on darted animals in the future.
“Just to see where they move to or how long it takes for them to find people again,” Biederbeck said. “It’s a way to just evaluate if this is an effective strategy to deal with these kinds of situations.”