YAKIMA, Wash. — Normally by this time of year, hundreds of elk are loitering around the Oak Creek Wildlife Area headquarters and the Wenas elk-feeding station, waiting for the time of day when Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife staffers and volunteers put out hay designed to keep the elk nourished through the snowy winter.

Of course, this winter — the occasional flurries notwithstanding — has not been snowy.

And the elk are nowhere to be seen, because they’re still up in the higher elevations, foraging for food on slopes still barren of snow. So neither the Oak Creek nor Wenas feed stations have been operating.

Wenas Wildlife Area assistant manager Jody Taylor was checking around the Wenas station a couple of days ago for evidence of elk showing up “and he wasn’t even finding any elk tracks,” said Cindi Confer Morris, wildlife area manager. “Usually we have some resident animals hanging around waiting to be fed when it gets cold, but not this year.”

The hay for this winter’s elk-feeding was purchased months ago — “You have to do that when it’s available at a good price, when they’re putting it up in the summertime,” Morris said — but the mild winter will mean the WDFW will be able to purchase a smaller amount for the winter of 2014-15.