British ColumbiaEnvironmentGovernmentWildlife

B.C.’s Rocky Mountain elk population declines 32%

Factors include predation & severe winter conditions affecting calf survival

The Government of B.C. is taking action to support the recovery of Rocky Mountain elk after a recent survey found the population has declined a signifcant 32%.

The Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development conducted an aerial survey from Jan. 15 to Feb. 5, 2018, to inventory elk in the Rocky Mountain Trench. The survey revealed the current trench population has declined 32% below target levels established by the objectives in the previous Regional Elk Management Plan.

In response, the ministry has taken a number of actions including:

  • Incorporating the inventory results into an updated Regional Elk Management Plan, which will identify management actions to increase populations;
  • Working with licensees, First Nations and stakeholders to revise standards for timber harvesting on elk winter ranges to ensure sufficient canopy cover is retained;
  • Completing habitat selection analysis of radio-collared elk to better understand winter-habitat use in the Rocky Mountain Trench;
  • Contributing funding to a research project investigating population change and loss of migratory behaviour in Elk Valley;
  • Closing the Sept. 10 to Sept. 19 spike bull elk general open season (GOS) and the Sept. 1 to Sept. 19 antlerless archery GOS in the agricultural areas of the East Kootenay; and
  • Reducing antlerless cow elk limited entry hunting tags to one tag per zone.

While causes of this population decline are not well understood, there are likely multiple contributing factors. These include predation and severe winter conditions that researchers expect are contributing to poor calf survival over the past five years.

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