Technical Report

Elk Ecology and Management Perspectives at Mount Rainier National Park
William P, Bradley, Chas. H. Driver


With the beginning of the conservation movement at the turn of the century, a great amount of emphasis was placed on re-stocking former big game ranges. Within the State of Washington, local county game commissions began to import elk from the Yellowstone/Grand Teton area to re-colonize areas from which the native elk had been extirpated. Between 1912 and 1933, 509 elk were transplanted from those two Rocky Mountain parks into the State of Washington.

The most significant plants affecting the future history of the Mount Rainier elk herd were the 1912 plant on Grass Mountain in the White River drainage, the 1914 and 1915 plants on Bethel Ridge to the east of the park boundary and the 1932 and 1933 plants between the west park boundary and Eatonville. These transplants ultimately formed the nucleus of the elk populations presently inhabiting Mount Rainier National Park.

These transplanted herds of Yellowstone elk gradually dispersed into park environments until, by the early 1930s, elk were observed on permanent winter ranges in the Upper Cowlitz Valley outside the park boundary. The general pattern of observations recorded during this period suggests a two-pronged invasion of park habitats by the introduction of elk herds. One path suggests the movement of elk west, over the Cascade crest and into the park. The newly established elk herds continued a slow growth until the early 1950s. At this time, changing patterns of land use created the winter range necessary to sustain large populations. This land use was of course, the clear-cut logging practices utilized by the US Forest Service around the periphery of the park boundary. Small clear-cut blocks of land in early seral vegetative conditions created by logging provided the elk with the necessary base to sustain the harsh winters. Sighting records in the park and estimates of total park elk populations increased dramatically from this point on.

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Last Updated: Monday, 01-Dec-2003 20:10:54
Author: Natural & Cultural Resources Division

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