A herd of elk have been establishing themselves in the Horsefly area in recent years, much to the delight of many locals. Ivan Hardwick photo

Ministry proposes ‘conservative’ elk hunt on private land in northeast Cariboo

Rationale is to develop hunting opportunities while mitigating crop depredation and property damage

The provincial government is seeking public input on a proposal to open a limited entry hunt for elk on private land within management unit 5-02.

The zone up for the LEH is 5-02 Zone D which takes in the Cottonwood River and Ten Mile Lake areas in the north, Quesnel River to Likely and south to the northern tip of McLeese Lake, according to maps provided by the ministry.

Zone C, where a new herd is establishing itself near the areas of Horsefly Lake and Miocene does not appear to be part of the proposal.

In the Cariboo Region, there have been no licensed harvest opportunities available for elk, which is considering a recovering species.

“There are indications that elk in areas of the Cariboo region are increasing in numbers, especially in portions of Wildlife Management Unit 5-2. First Nations and stakeholder groups in the Cariboo Region have expressed an interest in developing hunting opportunities for elk. A private land LEH season established in areas of high elk concentration provides increased hunting opportunities. A conservative winter private land LEH focused season could also mitigate issues of crop depredation and property damage from elk in “conflict” agricultural areas of 5-02 D and may encourage elk dispersal from these areas,” states the ministry.

Read More: Interior First Nations announce emergency Mountain Caribou hunting ban in West Chilcotin

Any elk harvest that would occur would be managed conservatively through LEH with seasons ranging between Nov. 15 to Feb. 14, an antlerless harvest rate between zero to two per cent for antlerless elk season, and a harvest rate between zero to five per cent for antlered season.

“Elk are difficult to reliably census in the heavily forested habitats in the northern Cariboo region. To better understand elk population dynamics in three major study areas (Quesnel River, Cottonwood River and Narcosli Creek), a radio-collaring study was initiated in 2014. Subsequent monitoring aimed to determine recruitment success, survival of collared cows, and obtain a more reliable population estimate. Elk survey results in 2015 and 2016 determined a survey estimate of 180 total animals across the Quesnel River, Cottonwood River and Narcosli Creek study areas. Incorporating anecdotal and regional wildlife biologist input, a revised/corrected elk population estimate for these three areas was determined to be between 300 to 360 animals. As radio-collaring data suggests there is minimal movement of individuals between the three areas these elk groups are considered distinct population management units, with an estimated 100-125 animals in the Quesnel River area, 100-125 animals in the Cottonwood area, and 50 animals in the Narcosli area.”

Both the Quesnel River and Cottonwood areas fall within MU 5-02, while Narcosli falls within MU 5-14.

Additional surveys were conducted in the spring of 2018 and 2019. These spring total count surveys were timed to coincide with early green up and were focused on areas where pooled radio-collar GPS data showed elk concentrations in late April and early May.

“These total count surveys indicate that the elk population is stable to increasing with a minimum total count of 163 elk observed in 2018, and 176 elk in the 2019 spring survey.”

The public has until Jan. 17, 2020 to give feedback on the proposal.

The LEH for elk is just one of many proposed hunting, trapping, motor vehicle restriction and firearms restriction regulation changes for 2020 to 2022.

Read More: Public input sought on hunting regulation changes in Region 5 and around the province


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