SEATTLE — Elk have become such a nuisance, tearing up fairways and greens, at a Snoqualmie golf course that the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department is bringing out the big guns.
Two or three of the animals could be killed as soon as Monday, when the TPC Snoqualmie Ridge golf course is closed, said Game Division Manager Dave Ware. The goal is to persuade the herd of about 25 elk to change habits.
The elk have found the Jack Nicklaus-designed grounds to their liking, overlooking the scenic Snoqualmie Falls, about 30 miles east of Seattle.
“Usually we try hazing with non-lethal techniques,” Ware said. “If that’s not effective, then we’ll consider lethal removal.”
The department has selected volunteer master hunters who will be allowed to keep the meat. They’re trained to be “super safe for sensitive situations,” Ware said. Police and wildlife agents will be on the scene to help maintain safety, he said.
The department has received more than a dozen calls since Tuesday when KOMO-TV first reported the golf course elk hunt.
The public concern is par for the course. Local residents are concerned about gunfire, Ware said. Others have sympathy for the elk.
TPC Snoqualmie Ridge and the surrounding development were carved out of what had been Weyerhaeuser Co. timberland the provided wildlife habitat.
Golf club general manager Ryan Whitney told KOMO it has been trying to drive away the elk for two years, even using flares, but nothing worked. Instead, more elk have been taking tee times away from duffers who would rather see birdies and eagles than big game.
So, the Wildlife Department decided to take a swing at saving the prized playing surface.
The elk issue has put wildlife managers on the horns of a dilemma at several locations across Washington where animals have become too comfortable close to homes, farms and developments, Ware said.
Elk have become unwelcome neighbors at Sequim, also in the Skagit Valley, and near the Tri-Cities and Spokane.
“It’s a concern in a state like Washington where we have tremendous population growth to expand and expand and yet great natural resources,” Ware said. “The interface between people and land creates a challenge for wildlife management.”