The iconic elk in Meadowbrook Farm have a long history in the American West. The Snoqualmie Tribe prized the native Roosevelt elk in the upper valley and hunted them sustainably in the prairie between Snoqualmie and North Bend for thousands of years. The pressure on the elk herd increased following European-American settlement in the late 19th century greatly diminished the population.
In the early 1900s, the Seattle Elks Club decided to repopulate the valley’s elk. They paid for and transported Rocky Mountain Elk from Yellowstone National Park, which faced an overabundance of elk. The transplanted Rocky Mountain elk adapted so well to their home in the upper Snoqualmie Valley, they began eating from farmers’ crops. To help contain them, the elk were transported to an island on the Snoqualmie River millpond, where they continued to thrive.
A population boom, a difficult winter, and limited forage converged in 1945, however, resulting in tough times for the elk. Although they were fed hay, many didn’t survive. The Washington State Department of Game transported the remaining elk off the island and shipped them north to the Nooksak Valley.
Some Roosevelt elk, meanwhile, had survived in the Cedar River watershed on protected land and began making a comeback in the mid-1990s. With the elk facing renewed prosperity, an Elk Management Group was formed in 2008 to help navigate neighbors and elk living closely with one another. The group has researched elk movements across the valley and built fencing along I-90 to keep elk and drivers safe.
The elks’ preferred home, the protected acreage of Meadowbrook Farm, provides a wonderful space for them to graze and thrive. Bands from the 400-elk herd are most easily viewed at dusk and dawn. Keep a distance for their safety and for your own, and you’ll be treated to the sights and sounds of a majestic species that has endured over the years.
For a fun selfie opportunity, see this springtime elk at the King Street window of Carousel. Artwork by Snoqualmie resident Sarah Hughes. Photo above courtesy of Don Detrick.