By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News
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After spending the winter feasting on the lush farm fields of the Dungeness Valley, the Dungeness herd of Roosevelt elk moved near its favorite U.S. Highway 101 crossing point Tuesday, triggering a motorist alert from the Clallam County Sheriff’s Office.
Tim Cullinan, wildlife coordinator for the Point No Point Treaty Council, said the herd of cows, calves and yearlings moved eastward across Johnson Creek on Tuesday morning.
He added that this is the time of year the elk typically move south into the Olympic foothills in the Palo Alto region, which means a crossing now is likely.
“If they haven’t already done it, they’ll probably do it right away,” Cullinan said. “It’s about that time.”
Cullinan tracks the herd with radio collars to monitor its location, health and population.
Usually in April
Last year, it headed for the hills in the middle of April. In 2011, it crossed south April 30.
By Tuesday afternoon, the elk were about 200 yards away from Highway 101 near Whitefeather Way. Cullinan noted the spot is a favorite crossing for the elk.
A herd of 12 bulls stays in Happy Valley until the summer mating season starts, usually in August.
The large herd of cows and calves have been spending unusually short stints in the hills over the past couple years, Cullinan said.
Last year, the herd was back in Dungeness Valley farm fields by the end of May.
“It’ll be interesting to see what happens this year,” Cullinan said. “I suppose it will depend on what they find to eat up there.”
Much of the elk’s valley forage is gone for now, he noted.
Nash’s Organic Produce plowed under a 40-acre alfalfa field to plant a spring wheat crop on Schmuck Road.
Another field of about 80 acres that was corn the elk ate last year is also currently fallow, Cullinan said.
The herd’s damage to crops prompted a special elk hunt, called by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.
The hunt claimed 15 to 20 elk between October and March, according to Sgt. Eric Anderson, an agent with Fish and Wildlife.
Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at email@example.com.