There are about 3,660 Roosevelt elk in British Columbia. Most of them (3,300) live on Vancouver Island. In the Cowichan Valley we are lucky enough to be able to see these magnificent creatures in person, as some call this area home.
The Cowichan Lake area is especially good for elk-lovers as they can frequently be seen quietly grazing on people’s properties and in the bush.
But too often there are those with no respect for these animals, whose population, really, is tiny. Just over 3,000 may seem like a lot out of context, but in the grand scheme of things, that’s perilously close to extinction, if just a few conditions change for the worse. One of those adverse conditions is the poachers who every year, without compunction endanger the local herds with their senseless slaughter.
Why do they do it? Given what’s often left behind (most of the animal), these idiots seem to do it just for the thrill of killing something. Perhaps they’ll take a trophy, or some other bits they can sell for top coin, but little else. These thieves steal from us all.
It’s not as if there’s a good argument to be made that they’re hunting them for food. There are plenty of other legal hunts they can get permits for if that’s their aim.
It’s already difficult enough for the Roosevelt elk to survive and thrive. We’re not the only ones facing the consequences of climate change. And then, of course, they have to deal with human encroachment into wild areas. This can mean everything from painful entanglements in fences, to loss of habitat due to logging, to death by motor vehicle on one of the area’s roads and highways. There always seems to be a few losses every year due to car accidents, even with signs up telling motorists to beware of elk on the road.
One heartening thing is the public outrage that accompanies reports of poaching. It’s clear that most people in the Cowichan Valley value their elk highly. We’ve got to keep it that way, so generations from now, people will still be able to their Roosevelt elk neighbours.