‘Shocked and devastated’: Freight train kills entire herd of elk

A freight train in Washington state collided with a herd of elk on Thursday morning. (Source: KPTV)
Published: Mar. 11, 2023 at 9:49 AM PST
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WASHOUGAL, Wash. (KPTV/Gray News) - A freight train on its regular route collided with a herd of elk on Thursday morning in Washington state.

KPTV reports the animals did not survive after being struck by a train, operated by BNSF Railway. The Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife said there were at least 24 elk in the herd.

A spokesperson for BNSF said the crew sounded the whistle and attempted to stop but it wasn’t in time.

Officials with the WDFW said 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 train track.

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

The crash happened between Highway 14 and the Columbia River. It is said to be a very remote area.

The department of fish & wildlife called the scene disturbing and that the animals were not salvageable.

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

“They’re very gentle, very quiet. They just move through and don’t cause any trouble,” Lavois said. “They’re fun to watch. They’re great for teaching kids about animals and wildlife and how they interact.”

He said his wife and children were saddened to hear what happened.

“My wife was very shocked and devastated. She started crying right away,” Lavois said.

Officials said this type of incident is not a normal occurrence and hope to not see something like this happen again.

BNSF Railway said trains in the area have returned to their scheduled routes.