Your State’s Elk, Reaching Out to Them
There are thousands of Elk, permanent residents of Oregon and Washington, our fellow citizens. Animal lovers could reach out and be involved in their health and welfare through the publicly funded state wildlife agencies.
Roaming through the meadows, forests, hills and mountains of many hundreds and hundreds of miles of Oregon and Washington are many thousands and thousands of beautiful majestic elk. Their ways of living are the same as they have been for millions of years. It is the human who has changed in such giant leaps over the last million years, and technologically over the last several hundred years, a nanosecond in terms of evolutionary time.
Elk are native to Oregon and Washington, having come to the United States from northern countries across a land bridge into North America 40,000 years ago. They were completely killed off in the 1700s and 1800s by the European settlers who killed them for sport, to see them fall and die, and also by market hunters who sold their hides and teeth. Elk were reintroduced to many states, including Oregon and Washington, from a Yellowstone, Wyoming herd that was spared extermination by an army general who intervened and protected the herd from poachers in the 1850s.
Though elk truly belong to themselves and the earth, in our current society with the large human populations, they need some amount of human management by people who understand the issues involved, which is currently the task of the state wildlife agency.
You may read about elk in books or seen them on television or you may have gotten a glimpse of one while hiking. However for the general public or wildlife lover, there is no direct connection to the lives of the elk. And this is something that needs to change, not only because people who admire the elk may like to have more of a hand in the quality of their lives and know more about them, but also purely from the elk's perspective, the elk themselves vitally need animal loving people to be involved in their lives. Though there are many ardent wildlife lovers and potential wildlife lovers just needing some inspiration and life experience with elk appreciation, their voice is not represented at the state wildlife agency, where policies on elk are created and adjusted continuously.
The public agency vested with management and therefore guardianship of the elk in Oregon and Washington (and all other states), is the state fish and wildlife agency
It is the hunting constituency, a group that has been involved with the state wildlife agencies since they were begun, that guides policy on the thousands of free roaming elk of Oregon and Washington. Since hunters are guiding the policy of managing elk, they are managed not for their own sake, but as game animals, that is live moving targets for recreational killing. The elk populations are kept at the maximum that the environment can support to provide hunters a hunting opportunity. They are kept as juvenile populations, because though an elk's normal lifespan is 25 years, they are generally killed before they reach the age of 7. And hunters like to kill the largest most majestic bull elks first.
There are many ways to appreciate the elk, such as better understanding their life patterns, learning to appreciate them in art, drawing and painting them, learning to track them as a skill, learning how to improve their habitat to help them be happy and healthy. All of these connections to the elk could be something fostered by the state department of fish and wildlife, in contrast to promoting stalking and killing them, which of course causes them great distress and disruption of their normal lives. Additionally many natural areas are open to recreational vehicles and this causes great stress to the elk and all the other wildlife that lives in the forests and wild areas. And this is another area where the wildlife needs the animal lovers and protectionists to be involved for their sake.
There are 9 commissioners at the Washington State F&W that are in charge of directing the policies of the agency. They are from the local communities in Washington and apply for these positions and are appointment by the governor for 6 year terms. So it would seem these would be the people who could and should represent the general public desires for the management of elk, and for the best of interest of the elk.
Wouldn't it be wonderful to have the opportunity to know that the elk of your state were being cared for by animal lovers and not being managed for the sake of hunters. This is where the state wildlife agency could become an agency that is responsive to the animal lovers of the state and responsive to the desires of the elk themselves for a happy life.
For more in-depth information on management of elk, see my blog on Elk Circle.
Elk Circle Website
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