Elk Valley hunters are taking dwindling wildlife populations into their own hands after reporting one of the worst years in memory.
The Fernie Rod and Gun Club (FRGC) is partnering with the Elkford and Sparwood clubs, East Kootenay Wildlife Association and BC Wildlife Federation on improving wildlife management and restoring numbers across the Valley.
Discussions were due to start on Tuesday, with a committee to be formed and new Fish and Wildlife Projects Director Brian Fantuz to spearhead projects on behalf of the FRGC.
Last year was one of the worst in president Kevin Marasco’s memory.
“It was tough for a lot of the hunters,” he said.
“The population hasn’t been this low for 20 years.
“They have reduced quite a bit of the tags coming up for hunting already that you have to apply for, which is a good start but it’s a combination of a lot of things that should be done.”
Marasco believes harsh winters and a rise in predators and highway kills could be to blame for the decline in wildlife populations, such as the Rocky Mountain Elk.
Projects the FRGC is looking at include the restoration of feeding grounds.
“We want to make sure the feed is out there for the animals, so we’re thinking about different ways to take care of the land better for them,” said Marasco.
These wildlife projects will be funded using money raised at the club’s annual awards banquet and fundraiser, held at the Community Centre last Saturday.
The fundraiser usually takes place at the Fernie Memorial Arena, which can accommodate more people but remains closed after the October 2017 ammonia leak.
Marasco is hopeful this year’s event will have raised $20,000, despite the smaller location restricting numbers.
“We thought it went quite well for the number of people we had,” he said.
Proceeds from the banquet will also go towards running the club’s outdoor youth programs, which start on May 7 at the Coal Creek Range.
More than 100 children aged between 3-18 are expected to take part over summer, with the FRGC to provide all equipment and training.
One of the big drawcards of Saturday’s event was the lucrative prize pool.
Loretta Johnson of Fernie won a hot tub, while Darren Whitson, also from Fernie, took home a new ATV Quad.
Sparwood’s Ken Morrow was the lucky recipient of the Gunwerks rifle package.
Awards were also presented in a range of categories, including fishing, shooting and photography.
The FRGC has about 3000 members across the Elk Valley and hopes to return to the arena for next year’s banquet, pending the reopening of the facility this fall.