By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News
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“I think the herd is at a point now where there won’t have to be as much hunting,” said Tim Cullinan, the wildlife biologist who monitors the herd for the Point No Point Treaty Council.
The state Department of Fish and Wildlife issued special permits to hunt elk during the season which ran from October through March to control the size of the herd.
After focusing the hunt on females in past years, wildlife experts opted to issue permits to allow hunters to take male elk this year.
This year’s take included eight grown bulls, seven juvenile “spike” males and two cows.
Four of the elk were donated to food programs for tribal elders.
Two went to the Jamestown S’Klallam and one each to the Lower Elwha and Port Gamble tribes, Anderson said.
The rest of the meat was kept by the hunters.
Although the season didn’t end until Monday, hunters used up their permits by early January, Sgt. Eric Anderson of Fish and Wildlife said.
One bull that had been shot but not killed earlier in the season died in early February from an infection of the wound.
The hunts leave the valley’s trademark herd at 37, with 27 cows and calves in the Dungeness Valley and 10 bulls in the foothills off Palo Alto Road south of U.S. Highway 101.
Cullinan said there may not need to be a hunt next season, as he expects the herd to add only 10 new calves by the end of the summer.
“There won’t be as many elk entering the adult-age class next year because so many young males were killed this year,” he said.
At its present size, Cullinan said, the herd should be able to sustain itself without causing large damage to farmers’ cash crops.
“There should be enough for people to look at and get pictures of,” he said. “But I think the farmers should be a bit happier this year, too.”
Historically, the herd spent most of its time in the Olympic foothills south of Sequim, Cullinan said.
After discovering a steady supply of field crops in the Dungeness Valley in the early part of this century, the elk began to spend more and more of the year out of the foothills.
Since early February, the cows and calves have been spending most of their time just south of the highway near the city’s long-planned Keeler Park.
They’ve moved out of the park recently, as local rancher Loren Meyer moved in his cows to graze the property through an agreement with the city.
“Cows and elk usually don’t get along so well,” Cullinan said. “So with the cows pastured there, the elk have moved over into some of those areas that were platted for development and weren’t because of the housing collapse of the last five years or so.”
Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.