Intrepid elk finds its way to North Whidbey

North Whidbey resident Madeline Biekert snapped a shot of a bull elk that managed to swim across Skagit Bay to visit. - Photo courtesy of Madeline Biekert
North Whidbey resident Madeline Biekert snapped a shot of a bull elk that managed to swim across Skagit Bay to visit.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of Madeline Biekert

A bull elk decided to explore Whidbey Island and residents are taking notice.

The wandering elk, which are rarely seen on the island, has been hanging out near Strawberry Point on North Whidbey. He’s been hiding in the grass and enjoying the apples on nearby trees.

“It’s been pretty low key. We knew it would be a matter of time,” Ralph Downes, an officer with the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife, said about reports of the animal being spotted on Whidbey.

He said he got the first reports about the elk about three weeks ago. It took several reports before he thought the sightings were credible.

“A chance of an elk on Whidbey Island is very, very slim,” Downes said. Judging from reports, it looks like the elk could be five years old.

He said the elk is also safe from potential hunters because Whidbey Island is in a game management unit that lacks a hunting season.

Some people have managed to photograph the elk.

“He was huge,” said Madeline Biekert, who snapped a shot of the elk as it meandered onto the property near Strawberry Point she owns with her husband, Kevin.

Downes said the elk probably swam to Whidbey Island from Skagit County, when a herd wandered down to the lowlands. He said elk are excellent swimmers, adding he’s heard of reports of elks swimming several miles off the Washington coast. Why it was there, nobody knows.

A herd of elk was spotted in the Skagit lowlands in recent weeks before migrating back up to the hills. Downes said Whidbey’s elk must have wandered away then.

While the elk is keeping a low-key presence basically grazing in the fields, he doesn’t think it will stay on Whidbey much longer.

It’s currently the middle of rutting season for elk. While Whidbey provides plenty of food, the island lacks other bulls for sparring and cows for socializing, Downes said. He’ll probably swim across Skagit Bay to rejoin his herd.

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