Malfunctioning elk lights in Sequim warn motorists though animals far away
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A statue of a Roosevelt elk — and one of several elk-warning signals — welcome motorists to Sequim.

By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News

SEQUIM –– A malfunctioning electrical relay is warning drivers on U.S. Highway 101 in Sequim to watch out for Roosevelt elk, though the city's famous herd is safely feasting in the woods a few miles north.

“The elk are nowhere near the highway,” said Tim Cullinan, wildlife biologist with the Point No Point Treaty Council, which monitors the herd.

“The thing is just going on when it shouldn't go on.”

Signs with flashing lights line Highway 101 on the east end of Sequim.

The signs have antennae on them that are supposed to trigger the lights to flash when they pick up signals from transmitters on collars around some of the elk's necks.

“But now, it's just going on when it feels like it. It's being really unpredictable,” Cullinan said.

A malfunction is typically evidenced when the sign's lights flash continuously, he said.

When it works properly, it flashes for 40 seconds, then shuts off for a bit and comes back on when it receives another signal from the elk's collars.

Cullinan replaced a relay circuit mounted on the sign two weeks ago. That worked for about five days before the sign started flashing again.

To do that, he has to climb an 8-foot step ladder for the hour-and-a-half procedure of replacing the relay on the back of the roadside sign.

“I meant to get out there again today, but then I remembered it was Friday and the highway would be pretty busy,” he said.

The elk have been hanging out for the past couple months in the woods at Graysmarsh, Cullinan said, where Schmuck Road deadends into Port Williams Road.

They like to hide out in the woods there during the day, he said, and emerge to eat field crops at night.

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Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at jsmillie@peninsuladaily news.com.

Last modified: September 29. 2013 7:47PM
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