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Re: [pct-l] Clearcuts, and elk herds


> Have the numbers of deer and elk increased dramatically in heavily
> areas?  You also seem to suggest this but is this in fact the case?
ten years ago my husband and I started going to the NE portion of Rainier
National Park, in the autumn during hunting season.  I was stunned at the
numbers of Elk.  They were ruining much of the park, especially near
subalpine and alpine areas.  The analagous situation of the Mountain Goats
in the olympic National Park is nothing compared to what has happened to
the East side of the Mt. Rainier National Park.

in some areas you canstand ANYWHERE and be on the intersection of two
trails.  It was stunning, it was like the whole place was a circus
ground(old fashioned type).

I was doubly incensed because they had closed one of the very few
designated campspots(it was the ONLY one in the area).  When I saw it, I
could not believe it - there was a denuded patch of ground about 10 feet
square.  This looked exactly like the designated places that in other
jurisdictions are called "hardened sites".   At the same time, for miles
around, much of the vegetation had either been denuded, eaten, or trampled
by the elk.

If you walk the PCT from Snoqualmie Pass to Chinook about halfway through
that section you see the same kind of damage.  It is not as severe as at
Rainier but it is very conspicuous in the fall - There are rough braided
trails leading off the trail , up and down and the damage from hoofs is
obvious.  I think that most people think that there are either horses or
cows doing this, because you do not necessarily see the Elk.  

I asked the people at Rainier what was going on.  First, people are not
considered to be part of ecosystem there, so if they do ANY damage, they
move to remedy it.  Elk are considered to be part of the ecosystem(actually
they are not quite sure whether the subspecies there now is native), so
anything they do is okay. They said that they were aware of the damage
being caused by the elk but they could do nothing about it.

Why are there so many Elk?  The Mt. Rainier staff explained that the Green
River Valley and areas to the east and north (south of Snoqualmie Pass) had
been largely clear cut creating lots of winter browse.  This allows much
larger Elk herds than if the more of that area were in woods because they
can survive the winter, and amount of winter browse is normally the
limiting factor for herd size.  In the summer they go up into the mountains
 and frequently into alpine and subalpine areas. In the  summer and fall,
many of them go to Rainier national Park to avoid being hunted ((Hunting at
any time of year is legal for native americans).  The numbers of elk there
are far above what the environment can support.

The Park people are watching the situation.

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