UPDATE: 1:10 P.M., JUNE 29, 2018: The bulls were spotted around 10 this morning, 5 miles to the southeast outside Olga.
First an elk turned up on Whidbey Island and now it sounds like two more have swam across to Orcas Island.
A pair of bulls were spotted this morning in a resident’s yard near the golf course between Orcas and Eastsound.
“Yep, that’s an elk,” confirmed WDFW wildlife biologist Ruth Milner in La Conner.
“They were in our yard, the dog went nuts at 5:20 a.m. when he saw them,” resident Kyle Freeman told The Islands’ Sounder.
“Never heard of elk on Orcas,” the Orcas Island Golf Course posted on Facebook.
Maybe not, but animals swimming from the mainland out to the dozens of islands throughout the Salish Sea is not unheard of.
“We had a bear on Orcas last year, a cougar on Vashon, the most beautiful bull elk you’ve ever seen on Whidbey,” notes Milner.
It’s possible that the Orcas duo ended up there for reasons similar to how the Oak Harbor-area bull took up residence there.
“The Whidbey elk was seen down in the (Skagit) valley with a band of cows and we think someone booted him and he took off west instead of east, and that’s probably what happened here,” Milner says.
It’s possible that the duo is the same pair that turned up on the southeast end of British Columbia’s Salt Spring Island, to the northwest of Orcas, in early April.
The history of wapiti on islands in Washington’s sheltered inland sea is “pretty vague,” Milner says, but before European settlement, some animals probably occurred on them.
Where those bulls may have been driven away by more dominant ones, she says that a researcher found rutty island blacktail bucks swimming back and forth through the archipelago in search of does.
“Collared bucks from Blakely leave the island and then come back,” she says.
“They do things we wouldn’t,” Milner notes.
While deer hunting in the islands is open, with second tags available for many, elk are off limits as there are no seasons on Orcas, Whidbey or elsewhere.
As for the Orcas bulls, it sounds like they may be happy where they’re at, at least for the moment.
“They did not appear to be in a hurry to head in any direction,” Freeman told the Sounder. “When I went outside they walked slowly into the tall grass and disappeared into the woods.”