Elk on Orcas

Two bull elk strolled through a yard on the western side of Orcas. No, this isn’t the beginning of a joke, but rather Kyle Freeman’s reality on the morning of June 28.

“Yes, two bull elk, confirmed with lots of people based on the pictures I took,” Freeman said. “They were in our yard. The dog went nuts at 5:20 a.m. when he saw them.”

Freeman lives on Sunderland Road, south of the Orcas Island Golf Course.

“They did not appear to be in a hurry to head in any direction,” Freeman said. “When I went outside they walked slowly into the tall grass and disappeared into the woods.”

According to Ruth Milner, district wildlife biologist at Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, it’s possible the elk were booted out of their group and went exploring for new territory. She said that WDFW will continue to monitor the situation but has no intention of capturing and relocated the bulls.

“The history’s a little vague, but there definitely seem to be some historical accounts of elk in the islands,” Milner said. “It’s kind of a new phenomenon to have elk showing up in the islands, but it’s certainly not unheard of.”

Milner reminded the public to not approach or feed the elk or any other wild animals.

An article published by the Associated Press on May 20 described an ongoing elk population problem in Skagit Valley. The article said that an estimated 1,600 elk now populate the area and have become a nuisance to the farmers.

Reporter Kimberly Cauvel spoke with several farmers and ranchers who have experienced property damage from the elk and are now calling for a culling to thin the herd and stop the destruction.