The attack on a 12-year-old corgi by an elk in the herd on North Marion Avenue in Gearhart was the topic of discussion at the city’s April 3 City Council meeting.
“The incident is just the most recent in a long series of interactions with these large animals whose populations have exploded and who have no natural predators,” Gearhart Golf Course owner Tim Boyle wrote in an email to Mayor Matt Brown. “The elk population is now at the stage where injuries to humans are inevitable.
Dog-elk encounters are becoming more frequent in Gearhart.
In 2016, a pet whippet was trampled and killed by a herd of elk at the Reserve at Gearhart this month. In another incident reported to Gearhart Police, an elk kicked a dog and broke the dog’s legs.
In 2017, an elk cow protecting its calf by the 10th Street entrance to the beach charged a bicyclist before the elk was tranquilized and brought to safety by police, firefighters and officials from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Reports of aggressive elk were also reported in the Gearhart communities of Surf Pines and Pinehurst.
Drivers and pedestrians alike find themselves surrounded by the herd, pets are threatened and their owners intimidated.
To make it safer for both animals and people, the city adopted new rules prohibiting feeding of wildlife in March. “This will help cut down elk-human interactions, and prevent the elk from getting too friendly and approaching humans and pets,” said at the council meeting.
Along with the no-feeding rules, Gearhart will post signage throughout the community, City Administrator Chad Sweet said.
Seasonal “elk calving” warning signs will be placed in busy right-of-ways and in pedestrian traffic areas. “Part of the job for the city is to educate the public and visitors on elk safety,” Sweet said.
Gearhart will join the city of Warrenton, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Oregon State Police and private landowners to work with Oregon Solutions to find ways to mitigate public health issues with the elk herd in Clatsop County, Brown said at the meeting.
Oregon Solutions is a state organization that helps solve complex problems within multiple jurisdictions and agencies.
The name of their project is Clatsop Plains Elk Collaborative and they are asking Gov. Kate Brown to back the project and select state Mayor Henry Balensifer of Warrenton and Mayor Jay Barber of Seaside to co-convene the committee meetings.
“The elk are beautiful animals and fun to look at from a distance but can be very dangerous to look at,” Brown said. “Please exercise caution with your pets leashed at all times to prevent potentially harmful situations.”