In 2008 the Kootenay Elk Management Plan called for a 25 to 40 per cent reduction in the elk population to decrease agricultural degradation, and this year those numbers have reached 35 per cent, close enough to the higher target to prompt an emergency change to the regulations. Those changes affect only the antlerless elk population in parts of the South Trench zone in the Kootenays.
“We did an inventory for the elk population in January,” said Tara Szkorupa, senior wildlife biologist for the Kootenay/Boundary regions. “We didn’t have that information prior to the 2012-14 synopsis being printed. When we did the inventory we found that the elk population was down more than 35 per cent. We had a targeted reduction of 25 to 40 per cent. So we’re getting close to our lower level of that reduction and so thought it was appropriate to make an emergency mid-cycle change this year to avoid further declines in the population.”
The changes close the following open seasons.
• General open season for antlerless elk in 4-03 Zone X, which includes portions of 4-2 to 4-5 and 4-20 to 4-22, from Sept. 20 to Sept. 30 is closed.
• Senior/youth season for antlerless elk in 4-03 Zone X, which includes portions of 4-2 to 4-5 and 4-20 to 4-22, from Sept. 10 to Sept. 14 is closed.
• Senior/youth season for antlerless elk in 4-26 Zone X, which includes portions of 4-25 and 4-26, from Sept. 10 to Sept. 19 is closed.
Szkorupa said that in the past six years, they have put radio-collars on over 100 cow elk, which has given them a good idea of the survival rates and recruitment of calves into the population, as well as the population trajectory over time.
“We suspected that the population would have continued to decline below 40 per cent if we kept those seasons open,” she said.
Szkorupa also noted that the reduction in the herd hasn’t had the desired effect on the agricultural side.
“We were all hoping when we worked on the elk management plan that we would have the same amount of reduction in crop degradation as the population declined, but we haven’t found that,” she said. “So what we’ve been doing, we have a committee that we work with agricultural producers and hunters and various stakeholders, so based on that relationship, we’re now trying to look at other options to try and reduce crop damage and crop degradation, while still maintaining healthy elk population.”
The elk management committee is looking at a number of tools to really target the animals that are causing the most degradation and she hopes it can come to a solution for that problem.
Every season, about 400 cow elk are taken by hunters in the South Trench.
“That’s the portion of the population that has more of an impact on population trends,” she said.
She also noted that the online version of the Hunting and Trapping Synopsis has been updated with the changes at www.env.gov.bc.ca/fw/wildlife/hunting/regulations/.