Re: Elk deaths at Cowichan Lake
Once again I find myself reading, with dismay, the annual account of elk deaths due to poaching and vehicle crashes.
I have written many letters on the elk topic, over the past decade or so, to various newspapers and/or government representatives. However, as is the case with most things that stand in the way of progress or greed nothing has changed, that I have witnessed, for the betterment of the elk population in and around Youbou.
Your last two editorials highlighted the fact that 11 elk have been killed in vehicle accidents on Highway 18 since December and that a “Rash of Elk Poaching ” has hit Cowichan Lake.
Firstly, with regard to the former, I raise the similar points as I have in the past. Why do people drive so fast and carelessly when there are obvious hazards? I travel Highway 18 daily and I clip along a few kmhs above the limit. I see elk all the time and never find that I have a problem stopping to let them go by.
It is also a daily occurrence to watch as people pass me and three cars and a logging truck in front. These impatient drivers are travelling at over 150 kmph during the pass and continue at that speed. They pass on double lines. They pass in the snow and ice and when it is dark. Where is the enforcement? When I first moved here there were often police on Highway 18 – I have not witnessed anyone pulled over for years.
I have seen first hand the most horrendous accidents on highway 18 and the Youbou Highway; and, the only time I see the police is after the fact.
Every morning logging trucks role down these arteries starting at 2:30 am. Although most are respectful, again, I observe many low-beds, logging trucks, gravel trucks and service trucks travelling at well above the speed limit. It is common for me to see these trucks driving through the Town of Youbou at dawn going 80 + kmh in a 50 posted zone. Even though this goes on every weekday and has for years, there has never once been a police presence that I have seen. The elk are very often out on the road at this time and they do not stand a chance.
It would seem the usual aspects of highway safety and conservation are all missing. The police are not seen as proactive on Highway 18 or the Youbou Highway, there are not any reflectors to warn animals off from approaching traffic, people drive notoriously dangerously for conditions and there are only one or two nondescript signs warning motorists of the impending danger of elk. It is also sad to note here that there are an abundance of raccoon, rabbit. mink and other assorted animal deaths on a daily basis on this Highway as well.
Secondly, with regard to the latter. Poaching is and has been a huge problem for the Elk. What comes to mind from the evidence presented every year are that the locations and the nature of poaching are similar annually.
Most of us have a pretty good idea who are poaching these superb animals but there seems to be little or no drive to enforce the law.
Further, it would seem that one or two grossly underfunded and underrepresented conservation officers are not going to be much of a deterrence in the hundreds of square miles of terrain around Lake Cowichan.
This will continue until the elk are gone unless we put an end to dangerous driving and excess speeding on the arteries around Lake Cowichan, change the logging practices and return to a sustainable model and start putting money into conservation.
The elk around lake Cowichan are magnificent and are apparently a “protected species” which begs the question what does protected mean? Are they protected from poaching and should be afforded more revenue towards that protection? Are they supposed to be provided with more conservation dollars than what is provided so they can be left alone? Should their habitat be protected and should logging that habitat be more closely monitored?Or is the Protected Species mandate merely government lip-service which just allows the herds to present as much more vulnerable so that they are more inclined to be killed by humans.