In March 2018, after meeting with the Assessor’s Agriculture Advisory Committee, our office began a survey to determine the magnitude of elk intrusion on agricultural land in East Skagit County. The survey was included in our audit for compliance with requirements of the Current Use Agriculture tax benefit program offered by the State of Washington to keep farmland in production. The audit covered all Current Use Ag participants in the Sedro Wooley School District and concluded May 31, 2019. Although not part of the audit area, the survey was also mailed to program participants in the Concrete School District since elk intrusion is known to impact farmland there as well.
Only three questions were asked of Current Use Agriculture program participants as shown below.
1.Have you received damage to your property, fencing, livestock feed or crops as a result of elk intrusion?
2.Describe the nature of the damage caused by elk.
3.Provide an estimate of annual costs associated with elk intrusion.
We received 140 survey responses from the affected area as of May 31 and are reporting the findings as a conclusion to the survey even though some responses may filter in after this date. Below is the essential data reported from the survey.
•107 responses (76.43%) reported elk intrusion damage impacting 5,182 acres in East Skagit County.
•The most reported was fencing and crop damage. In some cases the damaged fences allowed livestock to escape and many reported damaged hay bales, tree damage and hoof rot concerns. Some major farmers from West Skagit County reported to have discontinued leasing farmland in East County due to elk intrusion. Vehicle collisions with elk was also a significant concern.
•79 of the responses reported an annual damage cost estimate and 28 did not provide an estimate. For those that did provide an estimate, the average annual cost was $12,662 with a high of $150,000. Twenty responses provided a range of cost but this report includes only the low end of that range.
•Applying the average cost estimate to those not providing an estimate results in a total estimated, annual cost of $1,418,106 to Current Use farmland in East Skagit County due to elk intrusion.
•We have created a map showing East County parcels reporting elk intrusion available through this link.
David M. Thomas
Skagit County Assessor