Aggressive female elk killed by rangers in Olympic National Park

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OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK — A female Roosevelt elk that charged three vehicles and damaged a tent was shot and killed by Olympic National Park rangers Monday, park officials said.

Traffic into the Hoh Rain Forest area of the park was halted for about 30 minutes while rangers killed the elk with two rifle shots to the heart.

The elk died on a gravel bar about 100 yards west of the Hoh campground's A Loop.

Rangers took tissue samples and a section of the animal's brain for analysis by National Park Service wildlife biologists.

The rest of the carcass was moved away from visitor-use areas and “will be removed through natural processes,” the park said in a statement.

Last Friday, rangers said, the elk damaged a camper's tent and charged an ONP patrol vehicle in the Hoh campground's A Loop, forcing a closure of the area for the rest of the day.

Rangers closely monitored the elk over the weekend, using loud noises and other “hazing techniques” to scare off the animal when it got near campers and hikers.

But on Monday morning, the female elk charged two vehicles, which led to the decision to kill it.

“After careful consideration, we determined lethal removal to be the appropriate course of action in this situation,” said Olympic National Park Superintendent Karen Gustin.

“We hope that lab results will tell us more about the possible reasons for this animal's unpredictable behavior.”

Gustin said Roosevelt elk in the Hoh Rain Forest herds have exhibited signs of habituation — becoming abnormally comfortable in the presence of humans — in the past.

No hunting is allowed in the national park, and it is illegal to harass any animal.

Gustin said rangers continue to educate park visitors on the importance of not feeding wildlife, a leading cause of habituation.

Habituation creates a dangerous situation for both the animal and for park visitors.

Gustin said people who approach elk place themselves at great risk — elk can aggressively charge people and cause injury with hooves or antlers.

In turn, the elks' safety is jeopardized — park officials must consider serious action, including “lethal removal.”

Last July, reports of habituated elk prompted rangers to begin a concentrated program to discourage interactions between elk and humans — including temporary closures of Hoh Rain Forest nature trails while elk were nearby, and driving elk away from heavily used visitor areas.

Black bears that became habituated have been killed by Olympic park rangers.

“The Roosevelt elk is one of Olympic's most beautiful and iconic animals,” said Gustin.

“At the same time, elk pose a very real hazard to people who approach too closely — to avoid injury and to protect the animals, visitors should remain at least 50 yards from elk and other park wildlife.”

An aggressive 350-pound male mountain goat attacked and killed hiker Bob Boardman, a Port Angeles nurse and diabetes educator, near Hurricane Ridge last Oct. 16.

It was the first time someone was fatally injured by an animal in the history of the park, which was established in 1938.

The mountain goat was hunted down and killed by rangers.

Tests showed no signs of disease or physical abnormality; the goat was in breeding condition, or “rut,” which may have been a contributing factor.

Last week, a Mason County man said he was threatened by a growling and aggressive mountain goat in Olympic National Forest near Lake Cushman, near the southeast border of the national park.

The mountain goat finally backed off, and the hiker was not injured.

Olympic National Park spokeswoman Barb Maynes said there have been no reports of aggressive mountain goats in the park this year.

Last modified: June 21. 2011 5:08PM
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