Elk herd chewing on farmers’ profits

CONCRETE, Wash. -- Farmers and ranchers are fighting an uphill battle with hundreds of elk trampling their crops and causing thousands of dollars in damage.

It's such a big problem the state is now promising to help out those small businesses.

Cindy Kleinguizen’s family has worked the 580 acres at the Double “O” Ranch raising cattle for generations, but the free ranging elk population literally eats into their profits.

“We’re looking right now at about $15,000 by the end of the grazing season if we have to buy more hay or sell more cows,” said Kleinhuizen. “It could be $20,000 for one year.”

Farmers all around feel the bite from the estimated 1,200 elk that roam the Skagit Valley, and, unless the state comes up with a new management plan, the elk population could balloon to nearly 2,000.

The state Department of Fish and Wildlife offers money to farmers and ranchers whose property is destroyed.

“The amounts that they’re saying the can reimbursing ranchers and farmers isn’t close to being enough money,” said Kleinhuizen.

So, she has resorted to sometimes shooting at the elk trying to push them off the ranch; the state says she’s within her rights.

“We provide permits for much of the year,” said Department of Fish and Wildlife's Russell Link. “There are a variety of permits for these farmers can use to remove the elk from the property.”

The state plans to meet with more farmers and ranchers in the coming weeks in the hopes they can find a solution that allows elk to roam and businesses to thrive.

“We are taking this seriously and we’re going to be moving forward with a variety of solutions,” said Link.

But Kleinhuizen says it’s not happening fast enough.

“You can only drag it out so long, something has to be done now,” she said.