Small Washington town considering fence to keep elk out

Sequim, Washington (AP) 8-08

Tired of dealing with an elk herd that roams around this small Olympic Peninsula town – sometimes leaving destruction in its wake – state officials and some residents are pushing the idea of building a multimillion dollar fence to keep the big animals out.

About 60 Roosevelt elk – the largest kind – live around Sequim, a scenic community popular with tourists.

The animals have become part of the town’s picturesque landscape, with the herd often grazing in hills overlooking the town. But the elk also have been known to damage crops of nearby farmers.

“They are like tanks,” resident Roger Blume said at a town meeting. “They leave huge destruction in their wake ... and they are not a wild herd” anymore. 


It cost around $100,000 a year in staff and other expenses to manage the herd, said Jack Smith, a regional manager for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife. The state and the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe manage the herd. State officials have begun leading the idea of the fence.

Cost estimates range from $1.5 million to $4 million, depending on length, and purchases of private property. The fence could be between 3 and 9 miles long, designed to keep the elk south of U.S. Highway 101.

State and town officials discussed the proposal with about 40 residents at the town meeting. Not everyone is sold on the idea.

“We can’t put a fence across the Peninsula,” Sequim Councilwoman Susan Lorenzen said. “They’re going to get out somehow.”

Instead of sinking millions of dollars into a fence, Lorenzen said, “We could protect the crops somehow. We could reimburse the farmers that have crop damage and call it a day.”

The elk have been an issue for years.

The herd’s current population is down from about 130 five years ago. Management techniques used by the state and tribe have included issuing more hunting permits and relocation of some of the animals, such as the 17 moved east to the Dosewallips area in 1995.

In 2006, the state and tribe proposed moving the entire herd, but the outcry from residents quickly killed the plan. Last year, former Mayor Walt Schubert suggested thinning the local elk herd and giving the meat to food banks; that idea wasn’t popular either.

Frank Roach, who likes to watch the elk herd visit his nearby farm, suggested a different perspective.

“Should we have fenced out developers?” he asked, to laughter and applause.

“We’ve got to take a look at what we’re doing in the whole area,” Roach said. “I urge you to stop and think about good management,” of growth, water and wildlife, “so we can all live together.”