A look back on hunting and wildlife management in the EK

A look back on hunting and wildlife management in the EK

FJ Hurtak reflects on the year past in hunting and wildlife management and looks ahead at some news and notes for 2019

By F.J. Hurtak

The 2018 hunting season, by all reports was a bit better, in terms of success rates, than the results from the previous year, which had the dubious distinction of being one of the worst hunting seasons in recent memory.

Of course, the terrible wildfire season in 2017 contributed to the dismal results, as the early September bow season was lost, as well as the first week of the rifle season.

So it would make complete sense that the 2018 season would see some improvement because conditions this past year by the fall were fairly normal in the Kootenays, despite another bad wildfire season in the province overall.

The butcher shops I contacted reflected that improvement somewhat, and a conversation with Southern Guide-Outfitter representative David Beranek echoed those sentiments as well from an industry standpoint.

Then came the stark reminder from Beranek that “we are a far cry from where we need to be in the Kootenays and the province. We need to put wildlife first to have a realistic chance at stopping the continuing downward spiral of ungulate numbers.”

It would be very difficult for anyone to argue with that statement, but the good news is, is that much is in the works on several levels, to try and right the ship.

I’ll begin with a short interview I did with Tara Szkorupa, who was until recently our senior wildlife biologist for Kootenay-Boundary. She started a new assignment with the Fish and Wildlife Branch in January of 2018. The position focused on advancing the Ministry’s mandate to improve wildlife management and habitat conservation in B.C.

Q: What does your new position involve?

A: I’m working with the Wildlife and Habitat Branch as a Wildlife Policy Analyst, at a provincial level, but I’m still based out of the Cranbrook office. Patrick Stent has assumed my former position as the Senior Wildlife Biologist for the Kootenay-Boundary Region.The Region is now working on filling Pat’s Wildlife Biologist position, and the vacant Wildlife Biologist position in Nelson.

Q: Let’s get to some specifics then. Where are you at with the Elk Management Plan for our region and the province in general?

A: Staff in the Kootenay-Boundary Region are currently looking for a contractor to lead the development of a regional elk management plan in collaboration with stakeholders and indigenous peoples.This work was put out to tender on BC bid last August. However no bids were actually received during the initial round, and staff are continuing to solicit bids from additional qualified contractors. They hope to start on the plan as soon as possible.

Q: During the Wildlife Management Round table, held in the spring of 2017, there was much discussion on a potential new Wildlife Management Funding model for the province. Can you give us any information on that subject?

A: I’m currently working on the improving Wildlife Management and Habitat Conservation initiative, which is broader than a new funding model, although it will likely be an important component moving forward. Starting last spring we met with over 100 indigenous communities, and over 60 stakeholder groups, and asked everyone to share their ideas on how to improve wildlife and habitat management here in B.C. We also invited the public to tell us their concerns and offer potential solutions through our website. We received over 1,000 comments. The next step is to develop policy ideas to address major challenges in collaboration with stakeholders and indigenous peoples. Meetings and webinars began in December as you know, and will continue in 2019. Although we are focusing on provincial-level discussions first, regional input is critical for success of this initiative, and regional groups and stakeholders will be involved in the future. We also encourage everyone to visit our website to find out what we have heard so far, to learn more about this initiative.

Q: Can you give us the website information.?

A: You bet — Click on engage.gov.bc.ca/wildlifeandhabitat/.

Thanks Tara, we all appreciate the update.

Sheep Management Plan for Kootenay Region in the Works

Bighorn sheep populations in the East Kootenay have suffered some major setbacks in the past few years.

The Bull River herd for one, is in serious trouble. Numbers have dropped by over 50 per cent in recent years (120 animals in 2012-less than 50 in 2018). A study lead by biologist Jeremy Ayotte showed no evidence of disease as a possible contributing factor to the decline.

Habitat decline and predation became a major focus of discussion at a public meeting which was held at the Heritage Inn last year.

In an interview I conducted late last summer with Ministry biologists, they mentioned that their population objectives for the Bull River herd would be to restore numbers to populations of approximately 90-100 bighorn sheep. This was predicated on being able to improve range conditions and also to reducing the risk of potential disease, spread from domestic sheep and goats to bighorn sheep.

These questions and others will be addressed in the regional bighorn sheep management plan.

Again, the work is being done by contract biologist Jeremy Ayotte and Kim Poole, and is expected to be completed in the next few months.

Odds and Ends

• Back Country Hunters and Anglers hire Western Canada Coordinator

Aliah Knopff has been hired as BHA’s Western Canada Coordinator. A press release from BCBHA,stated that, “Knopff will be promoting western Canadian conservation goals to defend our outdoor heritage, and advance policies that safeguard our wild places for generations that follow us. The primary function of Aliah’s new role will be to support provincial chapters’ policy, increase capacity and work with chapter leaders to identify and advance conservation objectives in Canada.” The release went onto say that BCBHA is planning a Chapter Leader Development Seminar January 18-20 at the Heritage Inn in Cranbrook. This will feature a public event on Saturday evening—a story telling pint night featuring local characters.

Also,The BCHA will be hosting another one of their popular Film Fests which is scheduled for Cranbrook’s Key City Theatre on March 1st. The evening will feature a film from the BHA 2018 Rendezvous and a special presentation of “The Iceman of the Tatshenshini”, by co-discoverer Bill Hanlon. Hanlon was invited to share his presentation and his amazing story of a sheep hunting adventure and discovery. He has made many appearances at conservation events right across western North America with his informative and entertaining presentation.

North American wide membership, including both BC and Alberta chapters is now closing in on 30,000 members. It’s fair to say that their growth in B.C. alone in just a few years, mirrors the meteoric growth of the organization.

Wildlife Management Symposium Proposed for Cranbrook in April

Although details of this are a bit sketchy at the time of this writing, a wildlife symposium is being planned for Cranbrook this spring. The tentative date set by organizers is April 13th. The symposium will feature some of the most respected biologists in North America speaking on past success, our present situation in the Kootenays, and future management options. Watch for more details in the press in the coming weeks.

FJ Hurtak is the author of the books “Elk Hunting in the Kootenays”, and “Hunting the Antlered Big Game of the Kootenays”. All profits from the books have gone to land for wildlife and to habitat restoration in the Kootenay Region.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Today, on April 22, over 1 billion people will come together – virtually – to mark Earth Day.(Pixabay)
Earth Day 2021: a time to reflect

By Ruth Kamnitzer Today, on April 22, over 1 billion people will… Continue reading

A woman wears a protective face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as she walks past the emergency entrance of Vancouver General Hospital in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
54 more cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

Thirty-two people in the region are in hospital with the virus, 11 of them in intensive care

While pharmacies across B.C. are using AstraZeneca for public immunizations for people 40 years of age and older, there is no availability currently in the Kootenays. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
No AstraZeneca vaccine availability in Kootenay pharmacies, says Interior Health

Vaccine has been opened up at pharmacies in other areas of the province to people 40 years of age and older

Balsamroot, pictured here, can be found on Sunflower Hill in the Kimberley Nature Park, Eager Hill, Wycliffe Buttes, and many other areas across the Rocky Mountain Trench. (Paul Rodgers file)
Spring’s yearly spectacle of balsamroot

Ever year in May, balsamroot emerges for a brief showy period

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson outlines the province’s three-year budget in Victoria, April 20, 2021. (B.C. government video)
B.C. deficit to grow by $19 billion for COVID-19 recovery spending

Pandemic-year deficit $5 billion lower than forecast

A large crowd protested against COVID-19 measures at Sunset Beach in Vancouver on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. (Snapchat)
VIDEO: Large, police-patrolled crowds gather at Vancouver beach for COVID protests

Vancouver police said they patrolled the area and monitored all gatherings

FILE – RCMP officers wearing face masks to curb the spread of COVID-19 stand by as protesters opposed to the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion block rail lines, in Burnaby, B.C., on Friday, November 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Very scary’: B.C. travel rules too vague, shouldn’t involve police, civil liberties group says

BCCLA said that speaking with communities could have avoided top-down approach

Ocean Legacy Foundation members conduct a shoreline pollution cleanup in Vancouver. (OLP)
It’s time to end ‘suffocating’ plastic pollution along B.C. shorelines, advocates urge

This Earth Day, Ocean Legacy Foundation is launching a free educational platform to educate the public about plastic pollution

A teacher-librarian in Nanaimo was fired in 2019 for checking out an age-inappropriate graphic novel to a student. The discipline agreement was published Wednesday, April 21. (News Bulletin file photo)
B.C. teacher-librarian fired for checking out too-graphic graphic novel to student

Teacher had been previously disciplined and suspended on two occasions

Former University of Victoria rowing coach Barney Williams is photographed in the stands during the Greater Victoria Invitational at CARSA Performance Gym at the University of Victoria in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, November 29, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Former B.C. university rowing coach ‘deeply sorry’ after complaints

Barney Williams says he’s been committed to ensuring no other member of the roster had a similar experience

Aria Pendak Jefferson cuddles ChiChi, the family cat that ran away two years ago in Ucluelet. The feline was missing until Courtney Johnson and Barry Edge discovered her in the parking lot of the Canadian Princess earlier this month. Aria and her parents were reunited with ChiChi in a parking lot in Port Alberni. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
B.C. girl’s wish granted as her cat came back, two years later

Courtenay family reunited with cat that went missing in Ucluelet in 2019

FILE – The Instagram app is shown on an iPhone in Toronto on Monday, March 19, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
Judge acquits B.C. teen boy ‘set up’ on sex assault charge based on Instagram messages

The girl and her friends did not have ‘good intentions’ towards the accused, judge says

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Most Read