Continuing with my previous article of problem wildlife I have come across some more information relating to the growing elk herd population and the continuing damaging affect on agriculture in their path. Wayne Ray of Fort Fraser recently forwarded me a document entitled “Robson Valley Elk Herd Interface Management Plan” put out by the McBride Farmers’ Institute. Wayne also shared with me some of his past elk experiences which where less of a problem this year than usual mostly he felt due to 3 or 4 packs of wolves that hung around all winter. Nothing like going from the frying pan to the fire! This winter moose were more of a problem and ate about 25 round bales and partially ate another 25. Moose in general do less damage and waste less hay than elk as they are quite content to find themselves a bale meeting their culinary expectations and then eat it until it is gone.
Wayne remembers during the late 1980’s the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation came around to the local livestock associations promoting the value of introducing elk to the area. The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and the Nechako Valley Sporting Association worked hard to get elk into the area with the first transplant taking place in 1995. The local Conservation Association and the Ministry of Environment deny any transplants took place; instead claiming the influx of elk is due to “Global Warming”.
Elk in Jasper National Park have been a problem since the 1960’s with a large number, possibly 250, harvested (politically correct term for killed) in 1969, to try and curtail some of the human-elk conflicts, but due to public pressure this is no longer considered a humane option and instead problem elk are relocated. However numbers and relocation information from Jasper or Banff is not disclosed. It is the position of the Institute that the current problem in the Robson Valley is a direct result of those relocations. The Institute has documented two trailer loads of elk being released in the Robson Valley in 2007.
The problems with elk relating to agriculture in the Robson Valley has been ongoing and increasing since 1987 and their fight to have the government take responsibility for their own animals is probably indicative of what we have to look forward to. McBride was not historically populated by elk and ranchers and farmers recall there were no elk in the valley prior to the 1970’s. By 1987 there were approximately 200 animals and today approximately 600. Due to various studies Parks Canada anticipates elk herds will grow by about 20% a year and the provincial herd is increasing by upwards of 6000 elk per year. Based on current numbers, harvesting by hunting would have to increase by 400% just to maintain the current population.
The Robson Valley Elk Herd Interface Management Plan has put together a three part proposed program to cull and then maintain the herd to a manageable 150-200 head herd.
a. Change existing hunting regulations by extending the season and increasing the number of animals allowed to be harvested.
b. Implement a large scale relocation program to move elk to a location that does not impact agricultural operations.
c. Assist the province in meeting a target herd size approx 150-200 head by facilitating a large scale cull of elk and maintenance of the above changed regulations.