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Proposed Oregon laws too lax for killing elk damaging farm land

Elk herd

Photo credit: Shutterstock

When food is hard to find, Oregon elk often turn to agricultural land, angering landowners who don’t want to deal with crop and property damage as a result. Lawmakers have recently proposed two bills: House Bill 3227 (HB 3227) and Senate Bill 301 (SB 301), which would allow the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) to “issues tags with more flexible rules for killing elk” as current “existing tools for managing elk damage have proven to be insufficient,” especially as elk numbers have soared, the Capital Press reports.

“It’s like someone coming into your living room every month and saying, ‘Give me 25% of your income,’” said Rep. Greg Barreto (R-Cove), chief sponsor of HB 3227.

HB 3227 would establish an “excessive elk damage pilot program” for Lincoln, Tillamook, Clatsop, Union, Morrow, Wallowa and Umatilla counties. SB 301 allows ODFW to look at overall elk overpopulation when issuing tags. Both bills allow for damage tags issued to “persons” instead of “landowners”—vague language that hunters say will only “expand the field of people who qualify to kill elk,” according to the Capital Press.

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“This bill will allow for the senseless killing of elk during times when elk are most vulnerable,” said Fred Walasavage, board member of the Oregon Hunters Association (OHA).

However, something needs to be done. Current laws and programs aren’t doing much to keep this type of elk-inflicted crop damage under control.

“Hazing runs elk to your neighbors, fencing slows them down,” said Dan Leuthold, a farmer in Tillamook County.

In fact, elk damage threatens Oregon’s economy. According to Oregon Aglink, there are more than 38,500 farms in the state and the agriculture industry contributes more than $8 million to the state’s economy every year.

Regardless of the impact on the state’s economy, members of OHA, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and the Oregon Bow Hunters believe the bills go too far and, in the words of Paul Donheffner, an OHA board member, “we think it opens the door to potential abuses.”


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Matt H. - posted 3 months ago on 04-13-2019 03:01:34 pm

Interesting read, I'm pretty sure Oregon's Ag Economy is closer $8 Billion not $8 Million? One of the problems I know we see in Western Oregon is the inability of the BLM, Forest Service and State to manage our forests. Their hands are tied since every proposed timber sale immediately turns into a lawsuit with one of the many fake environmental groups standing in the litigation line waiting for a handout. The suitable habitat isn't available anymore and the food source is the farmland. Certainly see both sides and it's frustrating.

Sarah B. - posted 3 months ago on 04-05-2019 07:12:56 am
dan k. - posted 3 months ago on 04-03-2019 10:43:29 pm

this bill is not needed,,why dont the farmers let the hunters hunt?all i ever see is no trespassing,no hunting signs!!!oregon has a emergency hunt program but they never seem to utilize it??ive been on the list several times and never have been called...gave up even putting my name on the list now.dont even know if they still have the emergency hunt program going??where are all these "soaring"elk numbers at?I certainly dont see elk soaring around here?

David P. - posted 3 months ago on 04-03-2019 01:19:19 pm

I see both sides of the issue. But and there is that but...…. Fish and game do pander to the land owners. In Pendleton this year I glassed close to 2000 elk just outside of town. I felt for the wheat farmers as the elk tore up their winter wheat to eat. I am very sure majority of these elk came off of other private land owners who charge big money to hunt. Just for fun look at all the private land cow hunts in the Northside unit. They go from August to sometimes March. Draw a cow tag and hunt public ground. Your odds are very poor to fill your tag. Raises a lot questions. I know around Pendleton the issuing of damage control tags are very easy. The last I heard they issue them to the landowner he signs them over to the hunter who pays him money so he can kill the cow eating all his grazing grass. And finally the elk populations are only growing on private ground, not public.

Josh S. - posted 3 months ago on 04-03-2019 09:09:13 am
S.E. Idaho

@Colter I. I thought the same thing haha

Colter I. - posted 3 months ago on 04-02-2019 02:46:40 pm

these Oregon elk made it along ways to damage crops on the elk refuge in Jackson!

Colter I. - posted 3 months ago on 04-02-2019 02:46:40 pm

these Oregon elk made it along ways to damage crops on the elk refuge in Jackson!