Local farmers say elk running amok on their property

NEAR ACME, Wash. -- Farmers and ranchers in Skagit and Whatcom counties are fed up with elk ruining their crops and property, and now they're asking the state to do something about it.

Tree farmer Gary Bellows said the elk have have ruined hundreds of his pine and cedar trees.

"The elk are rubbing on these with their horns," he said. "You can see this one's been killed."

Bellows said it takes a full decade to re-grow the trees, and the damage is costing him money.

"This 70-acres right in here is probably worth a million dollars at harvest," he said.

His neighbor, Larry Jensen, believes elk droppings are contaminating his potato crop. Another neighbor, Jeff Rainey, said the elk are damaging his fence line.

"Whenever we put our cattle back in here we have to go back and rebuild the fences," Rainey said.

He said his dairy cows are also being forced to compete with elk for grass. He and dozens of other farmers in the area are banding together to force the state Fish and Wildlife Department to do something about the animals.

Right now, the elk population in the area is nearly 1,000, but the state wants to double that number to 1,950 to help preserve the native animal in its natural habitat.

While they want to increase the number of elk, state officials say they will also work to manage the herds to minimize damages to private property.

The farmers say the state isn't doing anything to help, and they want money to put in fences that will keep the elk out.