A January 2013 population survey estimated there are 7

A January 2013 population survey estimated there are 7

East Kootenay elk populations levelling off

Populations appear to have reached the desired levels after five years of efforts — which has meant a limited season thus far for hunters.

  • Oct. 15, 2013 5:00 p.m.

Greg Amos/Columbia Valley Pioneer

With just under a week remaining in the bull elk hunting season in the East Kootenays, populations of the elegant ungulate appear to have reached the desired levels after five years of efforts — which has meant a limited season thus far for hunters.

“We closed the youth and senior season between Canal Flats and Invermere,” said Tara Szkorupa, a wildlife biologist with the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources in Cranbrook. “All the general open seasons for antler-less elk were closed this year, except for the early bow seasons,” she added, in order to meet the Kootenay Elk Management Plan objectives.

That called for a 20 to 40 per cent reduction in South Trench elk populations, which have been reduced by 35 per cent over the last five years. That means a lower elk harvest is now needed to preserve the population at its current level.

“With the snow in the mountains, animals will start to move around now,” said Ms. Szkorupa, who classifies elk as “probably the biggest draw” for hunters in the region.

“They’re still rutting right now,” she added. “The hunting season started off pretty slowly this year, but things are definitely picking up now with the cooler weather.”

The open season on six-point and larger elk bulls is now underway in the region, and will last until October 20th. There’s also limited entry hunting on elk cows and calves. (The open season normally includes five to 10 days in early to mid-September.)

A January 2013 population survey estimated there are 7,509 elk in the South Trench area, which runs from Canal Flats to the U.S. border. That number is down from a 2008 population of 11,580.

“We’re now within our objective for the population reduction, but we don’t want to keep going lower,” said Ms. Szkorupa. “We’ve really pulled back on the cow and calf hunting, which has the most impact on the population, compared to bull hunting.”

“Between Invermere and Canal Flats, we did a small survey around Finley Creek and Dutch Creek, and we had quite low calf ratios in that area,” she said, noting a winter ratio of 25 or more calves per 100 cows indicates indicates an elk population has the ability to increase.

“(The ratio) was in the teens, and that’s an indicator of a declining population.”

“There are a lot of other factors that we don’t control, like predation, road and rail mortality and unregulated hunting,” she added. “There are a few factors that may continue to influence the population.”

Elk hunting seasons were expanded in 2010 in part to help reduce crop damage in the South Trench area. Even though the elk population had dropped in the preceding years, crop damage persisted, leading the ministry to look at site-specific solutions for the hardest-hit agricultural areas.

“There’s a lot of different objectives with elk,” explained Ms. Szkorupa.

“A lot of them aren’t migratory anymore; they’re on the farmers’ fields year-round, which can cause higher levels of damage. That was one of the factors when we were trying to determine a target population size.”

“There’s also general grasslands health, and trying to ensure we don’t have too many elk really reducing the health of the grasslands through overgrazing, which will negatively impact elk over the long term,” she said.

Population counts take place in the winter, as elk normally ascend the slopes of the adjacent Purcell and Rocky Mountains in the summer.

“They’re pretty much all concentrated at that time; a few of the bulls are higher up, and we miss a few of them, but we’re capturing most of the population,” said Ms. Szkorupa.

Just Posted

The Kootenay International Junior Hockey League met for their AGM and announced a number of new initiatives, new awards and changes in their executive committee, as well as the starting date for the 2021-22 season. Paul Rodgers file.
KIJHL announces start dates for 2021-22 season

Season set to begin Oct. 1 with league still following all health guidelines

Calvin Dickson photo.
Severe thunderstorm watch in effect for East Kootenay

Conditions favourable for the development of thunderstorms, hail and heavy rain

The Independent Investigations Office of BC is looking into a Castlegar incident. File photo
Police watchdog investigating Castlegar incident

IIO: Woman sustained a reportedly self-inflicted injury

Mount Baker Secondary School in Cranbrook.
Graduation ceremony in the works for MBSS Class of 2021

The Mount Bake Secondary School Class of 2021 will have a graduation… Continue reading

After being forced to cancel in 2020 due to the pandemic, the Wasa Triathlon is being organized for August. Bulletin file photo.
Information released for Gerick Sports Wasa Triathlon scheduled for August

In 2020 the COVID pandemic forced the Gerick Sports Wasa Triathlon to… Continue reading

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price (31) is scored on by Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Alec Martinez, not pictured, during the second period in Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup semifinal playoff series Monday, June 14, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Habs fall 4-1 to Vegas Golden Knights in Game 1 of NHL semifinal series

Match was Montreal’s first game outside of Canada in 2021

Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick, assistant deputy speaker at the B.C. legislature, presides over committee discussions. The legislature is completing its delayed spring session this week, with most MLAs participating by video conference. (Hansard TV)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 infections dip below 100 over weekend

Only 68 new cases recorded Monday, four additional deaths

B.C. ambulance station in Revelstoke is expected to get a new system called the Scheduled On-Call (SOC) this fall. (Liam Harrap - Revelstoke Review)
B.C. ambulance changes could put Revelstoke residents at risk, warn local paramedics

Paramedics said to expect a substantial increase in ambulance response time starting this fall

The BC Ferries website went down for a short while Monday morning following a provincial announcement that recreational travel between health authorities can resume Tuesday. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries’ website crashes in wake of provincial reopening announcement

Website back up now, recreational travel between health regions to resume as of Tuesday

The Kamloops Indian Residential School is photographed using a drone in Kamloops, B.C., Monday, June, 14, 2021. The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former school earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Communities grapple with what to do with former residential and day schools

Some tear them down as a tool to help healing, others repurpose them as tools for moving forward

FILE – Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. watching U.K.’s COVID struggles but don’t think province will see similar pitfalls

Studies show that one dose of vaccine is only 33 per cent effective in preventing B.1.617.2 spread

RCMP Const. Shelby Patton is shown in this undated handout photo. RCMP say that Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over on Saturday morning in Wolseley, east of Regina. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, RCMP
Pair charged in Saskatchewan Mountie’s death make first court appearance

Const. Shelby Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over Saturday morning

David and Collet Stephan leave for a break during an appeal hearing in Calgary on Thursday, March 9, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Appeal Court rejects stay for Alberta couple facing third trial in son’s death

Pair accused in their earlier trials of not seeking medical attention for their son sooner

Most Read