Roosevelt elk do not belong on farmland
I would like to respond to your editorial “Elk thieves” and Lexi Bainas’s article in the same edition regarding elk poaching.
Although I am also against poaching, I feel the negative impacts that elk are causing should also be addressed. I find it unfortunate that no consideration was given to Sarah Simpson’s article on elk in the June 20, 2018 edition of your newspaper before your editorial and current article were published. Sarah pointed out how the government does not grasp the problems elk created for farmers nor does it seem to care.
The report quoted in Lexi’s article contains many misleading and inaccurate statements regarding Roosevelt elk population, distribution (throughout B.C. and North American) and perceived vulnerability. Historically there were very few elk on southern Vancouver Island until they were hunted to extinction by the first settlers 150 years ago. My family has been farming here for 60 years and my neighbours for 110 years and until 10 years ago, we never ever saw a single elk. Through relocation and other government initiatives, elk have expanded into southern Vancouver Island and their population is healthy and expanding rapidly. Now I often see up to 40 elk on my farm with many being calves and yearlings. They are here year round doing significant damage to my farmland and crops. This spring when I was mowing the first crop of grass, I was constantly smearing elk feces into my crop with the tractor tires, not appetizing or healthy for my livestock.
The government biologists have no idea of how many elk there actually are. They do an annual fly-over to count them and are continually underestimating the actual population. Conversations with fellow farmers in the Valley have indicated that the numbers are MUCH higher than the fly over reports. Nor do the elk stay in the forest land as they intended. The elk stay and live on the farmland where the food is lush, easy and plentiful for them.
The government’s goal is, I quote, “to re-establish elk in historic, but unoccupied areas where conditions are suitable”. Farmland is not unoccupied nor is it suitable. Farming is not an easy livelihood, we work long hours and have spent a great deal of back breaking work to establish and grow our farms and cropland.
It is not fair, right or just that government policies can just take our livelihoods away from us by forcing us to house and feed Roosevelt elk.
Farmland makes up less than five per cent of the land mass on Vancouver Island. Pressuring elk back into the forest lands will have very little if any impact on their population. My whole life I have lived in harmony with nature and the wildlife that has always been here, deer, bear, mountain lions and wolves, but Roosevelt elk are a species that are not being managed properly and by their sheer size and numbers do significant damage to farmers’ crops.
Farmers are a very small minority of the population, and those earning 100 per cent of their income from the land, even smaller. It is easy for farmers to be ignored or forgotten, that is unless the population is starving. I admit Roosevelt elk are a majestic and beautiful animal. They just do not belong on farmland.