Monday, May 2, 2011

Glimpse of the South Fork Nooksack Elk Herd

South Fork Nooksack elk

Last week I was out in the South Fork Nooksack River valley checking out a riparian area along the river and got a glimpse of part of the South Fork Nooksack elk herd. I have been told the herd that frequents the valley numbers approximately 70 animals. Elk need a fair bit of room and the presence of this herd is testament to a great deal of cooperation between Washington Fish and Wildlife, tribal hunters, Washington Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Forest Service, Seattle City Light, Whatcom County, Skagit County, non profits, and land owners including some South Fork farmers.

Over the weekend the purchase of land along the South Fork Nooksack River by the Whatcom Land Trust was announced. The Whatcom Land Trust has been taking a leadership role in cobbling together properties in the South Fork Valley for habitat and open space and has worked in a remarkable cooperative manner with Whatcom County and local tribes and property owners. 

 see/click for more information.

The unique thing about this latest purchase announcement is the land is in Skagit County - off the above map. But the purchase ties in well with the series of land acquisitions concentrated along the South Fork Nooksack as can be seen in red on the above map. The South Fork Nooksack River is like many Cascade River valleys extends low elevations deep into the mountains. But in the case of the South Fork development does not extend up the valley and thus there is significant opportunity to develop viable habitat areas. Add the cooperation in the farmed section of the valley and one can have a viable elk herd. 

As for my adventures along the river, I appreciated the trail building the elk do to ease passage through the brush areas along the river banks. I came out of this venture with less thorn pokes than I typically have. 

Elk trail leading through the brambles


Kat said...

Was there a trade-off in ticks? Followed some deer trails this weekend and came home with three of the little boogers. Ticks, that is. Not deer. And not turkey either, alas.

Dan McShane said...

Very good point Kat. This is the time of year to regularly check for ticks. I do not like tick bites!

Mitch Friedman said...

I just saw in NW Sportsman Magazine that the Nooksack elk herd populaiton has (according to DFW and/or maybe the Nooksack Tribe) surpassed the 800 mark for the first time in decades.

Dan McShane said...

Thanks Mitch. That is a lot of elk. And an amazing increase given how few were present in the mid 1990s. I should have been clear that the paricular group I saw is supposed to be about 70 animals although I only saw 15 as they were just coming out into the open as I was entering the same clearing and the retreated once they saw me.