Yes They Were That Close

Looking out my front room window, just beyond my garden, a herd of 22 elk grazed and played in one of the fields Mike had just coated with lime.

A herd of elk just beyond the garden space.In the foreground you can see my young fruit trees and some of the elk were eyeing the green grass around my trees.

I had to have a stern talk with my farm dogs, they had not made a single noise all morning with this herd encroaching so close to the house. The dogs have the job to alert us of intruders and this herd could cause major damage to the trees, strawberries, cane berries and all the other plants that have new spring growth. If the herd bounced through the garden area, the footy prints would not only leave big impressions, but would chew up the turf I have growing as a cover crop to maintain healthy soil.

Mike came to the rescue and scared the herd off for now. I’m sure the neighbors are a little miffed about that.

How Disappointing

Anyone who has spent any time in the forest with Mike has heard him comment, “Take a little sashay out into the woods.” Loggers, mushroom pickers, hunters and visitors to our woodlands, have heard the comment.

I cannot think of any other grown man to use the word sashay as he does. To me when I hear sashay, I think of ladies in dresses to their ankles and a pretty little bonnet on their head, with a debonair escort to promenade around the town square.

To Mike, sashay means getting off the main roads, animal trails, and skid paths, and into the heart of the forest. A sashay to Mike could be a trek 10 minutes to several hours, from a scramble up to a ridge or a 3 mile pack.

After 40 years together, I noticed that I picked up on the word also. I was out in the area where we had planted cedar trees a couple weeks ago and mentioned to my right-hand-helper that we needed to take a little sashay over to the trees to see if the elk had been in grazing on the seedlings.

To my surprise, we found that not only had the elk come in to nip off all the tender ends of the trees, some of them were completely pulled out of the ground and left for dead.

A cedar tree plug had been pulled from the ground by grazing elk.The spots where they had been pulled from left gaping holes in the earth while the roots dried from exposure to the elements.

All around the planting area, big old elk footy prints marred the ground and the vegetation that had been growing there was torn up or trampled into a muddy mess.

We had taken a chance on planting these seedlings without benefit of cages to protect the trees, but this destruction was a lot more than expected.

More on cages will be coming up in new stories.

Elk During The Morning Chores

A tree in the foreground, elk on the hillside beyond the river.Getting ready to head across the river for the morning feeding, I looked past the tree and the bridge that crosses the river and saw a herd of elk along the hillside.

Traveling over the bridge, the view became clearer and we saw at least 20 elk heading toward the hay field for a day of grazing.

A herd of elk in the distance getting ready to jump into the pasture.This is the mid-sized herd from out of the 3 that visit the farm.

Once we were over the bridge, the herd caught the sight and sound of us moving toward them. About half of them were already over the fence and in the hay field when the herd reversed direction and bounded back out of the field.

A hillside beyond the field and the mid-level trees.The herd traversed through the green trees and jumped another fence to get onto the hillside that had been clearcut and replanted several years ago. Still, it was hard to track the group on the uphill climb.

About 300 feet above the hay field, I caught a glimpse of the herd.

A herd of elk on the top of a hill.Because the hill had no big trees, I was able to watch the silhouettes against the sky as the animals trailed along the top of the ridge.

From this spot, the elk have 7 miles of timber ground that spreads out toward the ocean. I hope they find good grazing so that they will stay out of my pastures.

 

As Seen From Afar

One of the elk herds has descended on the far hay field/pasture with a vengeance. It was hard to count as they kept moving, swirling around in a slow-dance version of circling the drain as they pick through blades of grass that are now exposed after the snow finally melted. The total neared 50 as far as I could tell with at least 3 bulls in the bunch.

 

This far field was supposed to be the grazing area for the main herd in a couple of days. We take fields out of rotation for feed after we spread manure out on the grass. The elk have determined that the field has broken down the manure and the grass is ready for eating, they beat us moving the cows to this pasture.

I can’t blame the elk herd, they are probably hungry from this unusual winter, and this grass that we had so generously fertilized for them 2 months ago is just the best tasting area they could find.

We are still planning on moving our main herd of cows over to this far pasture, but in the light of the current grass-stealing events, we will have to move the cows back out of this pasture sooner than planned and augment their feed with hay.

Meager Grazing For Elk Herd

A large herd of elk grazing in a snowy field.Our large herd of elk are back. They happened to find a small area in the middle of a large field where the snow had evaporated from the couple of weeks of dry, cold weather.

This herd which averaged 40-43 animals has grown over the last year. Even though it was hard to count as they moved around the field, it looks like the number has grown closer to 50 in this batch.

Another herd about this size was reported about 20 miles away. That area has a lot more humans living there and the elk are making nuisances of themselves by browsing on ornamental hedges, dormant rose bushes and expensive Japanese Maple trees.

Here at the farm, they keep nibbling on my cedar seedlings that I am trying to get established in the wetter areas around the river.

They Are Out There

Way out there in the back of the big hay field, the elk have been taking up residence.

A large herd of elk in the back of a large field.No doubt about it, they are a sneaky bunch. They know our feeding schedule for the cows. They hear the equipment as we haul hay to the outside mangers and once we clear the screen, the herd tiptoes back into the field to graze and lounge throughout the day only to leave again for the evening chores.

It’s hard to get a good count because they are so quick, but as close as I can figure the herd is more than 40 strong at this point, they are making a lot of mess with hoof prints from the skirmishes and they are nibbling any grass that pokes as it pokes out of the snow.

The Wrong Side Of The Fence

Going across the river to feed the main herd, we noticed some tracks in the snow by the barn.Elk track in the snow. We could see the trail that led over an electric fence and into the side barn-yard where we have blocked off a space for a cow to recuperate away from the main herd.

The trail of hoof prints showed an animal going all around that little grassy area, pushing off the snow and eating the green grass just below the frozen surface.

We double-checked to make sure that our herd was all there. When we took a closer look at the prints we realized that it was not made by one of our herd.

Elk droppings in the snow.One animal from our visiting herd of elk decided to feast on our dedicated pasture area and leave nothing but hoofy prints and elk pellets to thank us for his delicious meal.

Now I don’t mind feeding the herd that now looks like it has grown over the last year, but I do take exception when they are devouring all our areas that we have let grow during the fall for emergency pastures just in case a cow needs extra attention from a twisted ankle or new baby.