Awesome is one of the words people have used to describe the first time they see a herd of elk in the wild. Some might say it is a thrill. However, it is even more astonishing to run into a group of them milling around the beach or downtown. Imagine their reaction to seeing several bulls, calves, and cows “visiting” the backyard.
A Warrenton resident, Bill Routh, told Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB) that in his lifetime (63 years), “the elk population in Warrenton and the surrounding area along the Oregon coast grow from maybe a handful to hundreds.”
Unfortunately, that is what the folks everywhere in Oregon’s Clatsop County have experienced as the elk population has become unmanageable. Over the last 30 years, the population ballooned, and the elk are ramming cars, killing pets, and even attacking people.
Routh said he often saw a dozen elk in his yard. “They eat his flowers and defecate on his lawn. Worse still, he’s sometimes scared to go outside to get the mail,” OPB reported on June 1, 2023.
Routh recalled a frightening experience with an elk that struck him from the side, threw him to the ground, and dragged him across his driveway. That attack was nine years earlier and left the side of his body scarred.
“Luckily, I got a hold of his horns, and when he lifted me up, it popped me back up,” Routh added. Once back on his feet, he ran home and called the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW). Unfortunately, the rangers had to shoot the bull elk because of another report that it chased a little girl down the street as she walked to school.
Clatsop Plains Elk Collaborative Forms
In addition, herds have been reported in Gearhart, Seaside, the Lewis and Clark National Historical Park, and Camp Rilea Armed Forces Training Center. As a result, these locales, many county and state agencies, and Oregon State University joined forces to “reduce conflict between elk-human interactions, increase safety, and promote cohabitation between elk and people in the Clatsop Plains area.”
In 2021, then-Gov. Kate Brown designated the Clatsop Plains Elk Collaborative as an Oregon Solutions project following requests from Gearhart and Warrenton.
Furthermore, the governor appointed Mayors Henry Balensifer and Jay Barber of Warrenton and Seaside (respectively) as project co-coordinators.
Oregon Solutions also formed a 26-member team that included key stakeholders, state and federal agency staff, local community and government workers, academics, Governor’s Regional Solutions staff, and area non-profit representatives to focus on the goals mentioned earlier.
Currently, some progress has been made toward those goals. However, the elk overpopulation in Warrenton has become intolerable to many residents. At a recent council meeting, the discussion about culling the herd was discussed. However, the elk reside in towns, on state and federal land, and the military base, so hunting licenses cannot be issued. Hopefully, frustrated residents and business owners will have answers from the collective soon, as they have lost patience waiting for answers.
About Roosevelt Elk
According to the USDA Forest Service, Roosevelt elk originated in the region. Reports indicate they were abundant within Western Oregon’s river valleys and bottomlands. Many reports indicate the elk also lived on the Cascades’ western slopes.
Written by Cathy Milne-Ware
Oregon Solutions: Clatsop Plains Elk Collaborative; Declaration of Cooperation
Statesman Journal: Oregon elk management options studied by ODFW biologists, wildlife managers
OPB: Coastal Oregon communities grappling with rise in elk population; by Kristian Foden-Vencil
Featured and Top Image by Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife Courtesy of Flickr – Public Domain License
First Inset Image by Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife Courtesy of Flickr – Public Domain License
Second Inset Image by Joyce Cory Courtesy of Flickr – Creative Commons License