Freight train kills entire herd of elk in Washougal

A freight train in Washington state collided with a herd of elk on Thursday morning. (Source: KPTV)
Published: Mar. 10, 2023 at 5:32 PM PST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

WASHOUGAL Wash. (KPTV) - A freight train on the BNSF tracks in Washougal, Washington, on its regular route, collided with a herd of elk on Thursday morning, killing all of them. Washington Dept. of Fish & Wildlife says there were 24 to 26 elk in the herd.

BNSF says the train crew sounded the whistle and put the train into emergency but were not able to stop in time.

WDFW says it’s not unusual for elk to be in the area or near the tracks but it is unusual for such a high number of elk to be near the track.

“There is a lot of farmland in flat areas in this particular area but where this particular incident occurred, it’s very steep and it’s possible they were using the train track as a travel corridor,” says Jeffrey Wickersham, WDFW.

The crash happened between Hwy 14 and the Columbia River, about 1.5 miles east of Cape Horn Lookout. It is said to be very remote, only accessible by foot. WDFW spoke with BNSF, who was able to assess the area, calling the scene disturbing. They also say the animals were not salvageable.

Michael Lavois and his family live in the area and say they saw a herd of elk in their backyard just a couple days prior.

“They’re very gentle, very quiet. They just kind of mosey on through and they don’t cause any trouble. It’ll look like there’s about 10 to 20 of them and then five more will come out from the trees,” says Lavois. “They’re fun to watch. They’re great for kids to watch too. Really good for teaching our kids about animals and wildlife and how they interact. We can just watch them right from our deck.”

But his wife and children were saddened to hear what happened.

“My wife was very shocked and devastated. She started crying right away,” says Lavois. “They heard what happened so they were like ‘Are the elk gonna come back?’ It’s really hard not being able to tell them if they’re gonna come back or not.”

We’re told this is not a normal occurrence and WDFW say they don’t see this happening again in the near future. Unfortunately, the animals will remain where they are.

Trains are back on their scheduled routes.