Public outcry puts elk hunt on hold at Snoqualmie Ridge golf course

A plan to kill three elk on the TPC Snoqualmie Ridge's 12th tee is on hold, as course owners weigh their options amid a barrage of opposition to the hunt.

With damage to the greens caused by a band of about 20 resident elk worsening over the last two years, TPC staff had worked with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife on a plan to deploy rifle-armed master hunters to the course. Specially trained hunters were to kill up to three cows in an effort to push the band off the course.

The first day of the hunt would have been Monday, Dec. 12, but the first hunter's schedule fell through. And as word spread of the hunting plan, announced by the city of Snoqualmie officially Monday, opposition grew. By Thursday afternoon, Dec. 15, the hunt had been put on hold at the request of the course, wildlife officials reported.

Snoqualmie Police Department, which had OK'd the hunt, fielded dozens of calls and e-mails, mostly in opposition to the shoot for reasons of safety and humane treatment of elk. One caller vowed to come to the Ridge to personally prevent the hunt. Still others supported the hunt, with a handful asking how they could take part.

Voices against the hunt

Fall City resident Brad Canady was among the dozens of callers who spoke to local wildlife officials, urging them to call off the hunt. Canady applauded the decision to put it on hold. He says hunt planners haven't exhausted all their options.

"The idea of high powered weapons shooting around people, houses, just seemed absurd," Canady said—low risk is still risk, he added.

In his own Internet research, Canady said he found promising statistics on birth control drugs for wildlife, which he unsuccessfully urged the wildlife department to consider.

"Organizations need to be responsible and understand that they do live in a community," he said. "I'm glad they're reconsidering this action and not moving forward with the hunt. I hope they make it a permanent decision."

Today, the Snoqualmie Tribe released its own stance against the hunt.

"Sustainable and low-impact development should include ways to co-exist with wildlife," Tribal Administrator Matt Mattson stated. "The controlled hunt on the TPC golf course is counter to this philosophy, and counter to the wishes of the Snoqualmie Tribe."

However, Mattson also requested that a tribal master hunter also take part if the hunt does move forward, as the course's land includes a sacred Tribal burial ground.

"We live in an area with lots of wildlife. We're very lucky in that," said Rhonda Manville, a spokeswoman for the Humane Society of Seattle and King County.

"We believe we should try our best to live together and use the most humane methods in dealing with animals, whether they're pets or wildlife," Manville said. "We always favor humane, non-lethal methods of dealing with wildlife…. They should explore humane ways to deal with this issue."

Safe and quick

Chris Moszeter, the Fish and Wildlife's enforcement officer for the Valley who set up the hunt, and Becky Munson, spokeswoman for the Snoqualmie Police Department, told the Record  that many callers didn't fully understand what the master hunters were going to do, or the reasons behind it.

"We're trying to change the behavior of the elk by giving them a predator," Moszeter said.

Master hunters, who are typically deployed by the state in conjunction with the Upper Snoqualmie Valley Elk Management Group, aren't new to the Valley.

In the last few years, master hunters have been sent to rural neighborhoods like Three Forks or Moon Valley to kill small numbers of elk, typically one or two cows. The reason the hunt was approved on the Ridge, Moszeter said, is because the plan was safe and effective.

Master hunters were to hunt only on Mondays, when the course was closed. Moszeter said their firing area was tightly-defined, far from homes and faced away from residential areas. Master hunters go through a rigorous training process, and "are confined to a very small window of where they can and cannot shoot," he said. "They're held to a higher ethical and safety standard than the average hunter."

Moszeter said the hunters with modern rifles were selected because of their killing power, compared with bows or muzzle-loaders.

"We want to be as effective as possible," he said. "If you tag an animal, we want it to drop dead now, we don't want it running off. We want this to be quick, in, out, done."

If the TPC hunt hadn't been publicized, "We could have been in and out and gone, and nobody would have known the difference," he added.

Moszeter denies that the TPC is getting special treatment—he works to help other property owners with similar problems, recognizing that some places, such as the Nursery At Mount Si, which is plagued by hungry nocturnal elk, have different challenges.

Moszeter counters Canady's appeal for population control drugs, saying that method is "super expensive" and unproven. He says that delays just mean more damage and more cost to the course.

"With elk, you've got to intercede at some point," he said. "There are no predators other than cars. Do we really want people colliding with elk on 202 and I-90? We're sitting here waiting for something bad to happen."


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