Technical Report

A History of Native Elk in Mount Rainier National Park
Paul Schullery


August, 1947, Russell Grater

Elk were responsible for three breaks in the Shriner Peak Lookout telephone line.

September, 1947, Russell Grater

Elk tracks have been observed around Snow Lake, Bench Lake, and Lake Louise, an extension of the known range to the westward up Stevens Canyon.

September, 1951, Merlin Potts

A herd of approximately 30-35 elk was observed in the Shriner Peak area throughout the greater part of September. On September 17, a party of rangers released a bull elk trapped in the old telephone line to the Shriner Peak Lookout. Ranger Del Armstrong's account of the incident is interesting:

On the evening of the sixteenth, Bob Albrecht, the lookout on Shriner Peak, spotted a large bull elk that had entangled his antlers in the old telephone line and had then wrapped it around some small cedars in such a way that he was completely secured with little freedom of movement. It was too late to do anything that night, but the next day District Ranger Bill Heckman, Albrecht, and myself were able to reach the animal and cut the wire right at the antlers. Although there was still a short piece of wire running from one antler to the other, the animal was freed unharmed and in good condition. Animal was a five-pointer approximately 4-5 years old.

January, 1952, Merlin Potts

District Ranger Patterson's January report states that three elk, a bull, a cow, and a calf, are wintering in the White River District. This is the first known observation of elk wintering in this section of the park. However, Mr. Patterson's further comments are interesting:

The Joker in this story is that the Elk's cousins may have carried the news. For years the State Road Crew has been feeding the deer at the Snow Camp at Crystal Creek. This winter the deer are seen regularly at the Camp. Well, the State Crew are now feeding the elk at a site 1/4 mile below the old Fountain on U.S. # 410 and up the slope about 200 feet from the highway.

July, 1952, Merlin Potts

Elk were observed on the East Side Highway, cows and calves are feeding on the cedar flat near the Ohanapecosh Ranger Station, and a herd of 25 individuals was observed near the Shriner Peak Lookout.

November, 1952, Merlin Potts

Ten elk were observed in Cedar Flat on November 19, and tracks were abundant in the Nickel Creek area.

January, 1954, Merlin Potts

District Ranger Patterson reports several elk wintering along the Mather Memorial Parkway, both inside and outside the northern park boundary.

On January 30, Supervisory Park Ranger Butler observed five bull elk along the highway between the Ohanapecosh boundary and the White Pass road.

June, 1954, Merlin Potts

District Ranger William Heckman reported disposing of a cow elk with broken back on the roadway near Cayuse Pass. The animal had apparently been injured in jumping from the twelve-foot snowbank bordering the road.

August, 1954, Merlin Potts

District Park Ranger Heckman reports 37 elk observed near the Shriner Peak Lookout, and that deer are unusually abundant in the Stevens Canyon area.

January, 1955, Merlin Potts

On January 3, school bus passengers observed a band of five elk just outside the park boundary in the Cowlitz Valley.

March, 1955, Merlin Potts

(at Ohanapecosh Hot Springs Lodge)

Tracks of a single elk are frequently seen in the area.

May, 1955

Biologist Coleman Newman visited the park from May 16-19, inclusive, for the purpose of investigating conditions of deer and elk, as well as observing the extent of browsing in areas of population concentration.

November, 1955, Merlin Potts

Ranger Rogers also reports numerous observations of elk along the road both inside and outside the park boundary near Ohanapecosh, as well as "numerous tracks" north of the entrance.

April, 1956, Merlin Potts

Mr. Coleman Newman, Biologist assigned to Olympic National Park, visited the park from April 16 to 19, for the purpose of studying utilization of browse by deer and elk in the vicinities of Nisqually and Ohanapecosh Entrances.

July, 1957, Vernon Bender

Elk activity in Summerland and on Goat Island Mountain. Ranger Naturalist John Lamb reported seeing a cow with calf on Goat Island Mountain.

October, 1957, Vernon Bender

On October 15, Messrs. Newman and Doudna investigated the southern area of the park for possible elk populations. The following day Messrs. Bender and Newman investigated the eastern portion of the park for elk population. Some very old tracks and droppings were discovered but nothing indicative of increased use in the areas investigated. Outside the park in the Cowlitz River Drainage, tracks representing a herd of about 12 animals were discovered.

March, 1958, Vernon Bender

Ten elk were reported above the Stevens Canyon-East Side Road junction by John Didio.

June, 1958, Vernon Bender

Twelve elk were observed in the upper Valley of the Cowlitz by Messrs. Fiske and Hopson.

July, 1958, Vernon Bender

An elk herd of seven cows and five calves were seen 1/2 mile southeast of Seymour Peak in the 17th of July by Geologist Dick Fiske.

September, 1958, John Tyers

A bull elk with two cows and a yearling calf were seen on September 11 by Park Naturalists Bender and Tyers and Supervisory Park Ranger Jones on the Rainier Fork of the American River below Chinook Pass. The bull bugled several times.

October, 1958, Vernon Bender

Several elk tracks were observed at the Box Canyon October 29 crossing over the top of the tunnel.

June, 1959, Vernon Bender

. . . a cow elk was observed on the road shoulder at the Stevens Canyon Entrance.

Several elk were observed on the slopes of Stevens Peak by Ranger-naturalist O'Brien, June 30.

Heavy elk activity was observed along the East Side Trail where the red elder foliage has been stripped of food. Several wallows were observed on the shores of beaver dams recently used by this animal.

July, 1959, Vernon Bender

On the island in the Ohanapecosh area containing the Big Trees, heavy elk feeding activity was observed. Several elk wallows were also discovered.

August, 1959, Vernon Bender

Ranger-naturalist Lemon reported two herds of elk of twelve to fourteen animals in the Cowlitz Chimney area.

September, 1959, Vernon Bender

Elk were bugling all of September along the east side of the park. Geologist Dick Fiske reported several groups in the Shriner Peak area. He observed one old bull polishing his antlers on a tree about four inches in diameter, which he said was whipping like a small twig in the wind. Several elk were seen around Seymour Peak by Mr. Fiske.

January, 1960, Vernon Bender

Several elk have been reported wintering in the north park boundary and Ohanapecosh areas. One four-point bull frequents the Ohanapecosh campground area and has been seen from the dining room of the Ohanapecosh Hot Springs Lodge several times.

March, 1960, Vernon Bender

Three bull elk with antlers in velvet were seen along Backbone Ridge. Numerous tracks were seen crisscrossing the roadway on both sides of the ridge.

August, 1960, Vernon Bender

August 7 a cow elk was observed feeding in Indian Henry's at Mirror Lake by Cecil A. Perkins, Jr.

November, 1960, John Tyers

A spike elk was observed in Ipsut Creek Campground on November 20 by District Ranger Bright. Many elk tracks were seen in this area as well as on the Mowich Lake Road.

February, 1961, Vernon Bender

Elk were reported by Park Ranger Jones along the East Side Road near the Shriner lookout trail February 18. Three cows and one calf were seen.

March, 1961, Vernon Bender

Elk were observed bedded down beside the road in the flat area below Shriner burn by Ranger Jones on March 2.

June, 1961, Vernon Bender

6/7 cow elk with "vivid" red calf, Bob Ensworth, one mile west of Ohanapecosh entrance station.

6/19, Elk, East Side Road, Alto Albright.

September, 1961, Vernon Bender

9/12 Fresh tracks observed on Cowlitz Divide-Kotsuck area.

November, 1961, Vernon Bender

11/7 Four elk (1 bull, 3 cows, and 1 calf) seen on west side of river at Ohanapecosh Campground.

(that adds up to five, not four)

January, 1962, Vernon Bender

1/19 Elk tracks were seen in the lower drainage of Olallie Creek, probably only several animals.

April, 1962, Vernon Bender

A small herd of about a dozen elk are reported by District Ranger, White River, which have wintered near the Ranger Creek airstrip.

September, 1962, Earl Estes

9/24 Elk were heard to bugle, on the trail Tipsoo to Three Lakes.

October, 1962, Vernon Bender

Mr. John Larsen, Wildlife Biologist, United States Forestry Service was in the Park October 22 to discuss the elk survey he conducted September 18, 1962, with Mr. Bender. A special report was made of this discussion. A cooperative project will be outlined at a later date in an attempt to get a better population study underway. Mr. Larsen indicated he would supply us with material concerning the use of various drugs on the immobilization of larger mammals.

An aerial flight along the east boundary of the Park was made October 16 by Messrs. Bender, Estes and Parsegan to observe elk numbers. Between 25-30 animals were seen on the southeast slope of Shriner Peak. A special report was prepared on this flight for the files.

10/15/62 A bull elk and coyote were reported by Ashly, seen at Stevens Creek during a night patrol.

10/24/62 Estes observed a cow and calf elk at Shriner Peak trail-road junction.

10/30/62 Peters reported a bull elk near Backbone Ridge during a night patrol.

November, 1962, Vernon Bender

Mr. John Larsen, Wildlife Biologist, Forest Service, suggested that track and pellet counts for elk studies in the Ohanapecosh area be made this winter. These will reveal population trends and a possible beginning to obtaining information on elk wintering in the Park. He also suggested vegetation exclosures to show the impact of elk on vegetation. Materials have been ordered for an exclosure but it is doubtful if it can be erected at this late date because the vegetation is presently snow covered. For exclosure studies, it is necessary to identify and record the vegetation within the exclosure.

It is proposed to erect three of these exclosures next year; one each on Cedar Flats, Shriner Burn, and White River Valley near the north Park boundary.

April 1963, Vernon Bender

Seven reports of elk were received from Messrs. Burns and Towsley during April. The largest number observed at any one time was four along the Cedar Flat area. Most observations were of single animals or two adults.

May, 1963, Vernon Bender

Two areas were selected in the Ohanapecosh Valley for the elk study plots, May 9. The elk exclosures were erected before the end of the month with materials that were purchased last fall and on hand.

Elk were seen several times in the Ohanapecosh and White River Valleys throughout May. Two animals being the largest number seen at any one time.

June, 1963, Vernon Bender

The first spotted elk calf ever reported in Mount Rainier National Park was observed June 25 by Chief Park Naturalist Bender, Ranger-Naturalist Donald Dickinson, Steve Bender and three trainees from WODC. This elk calf, about two days old, was seen on the trail to the Big Trees, where the foot-log crosses the Ohanapecosh River. Heavy elk activity was also noticed in this area, grazing primarily on devil's club, elderberry, vine maple and the flowering nettle.

July, 1963, Vernon Bender

A plant inventory of the elk exclosures in the Ohanapecosh Valley was completed.

August, 1963, William Bullard

The elk study was continued.

Elk continue to be observed on the east side of the park.

November, 1963, William Bullard

A small band of elk were observed passing through the Longmire area.

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Last Updated: Monday, 18-Oct-2004 20:10:54
Author: Natural & Cultural Resources Division

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