General open season for antlerless elk is closed this year in the East Kootenay, following a considerable drop in numbers.
Two years ago, the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations decided to open the season, because of concerns about damage to crops and over grazing.
The aim was to reduce the number of antlerless elk by between 20 and 40 per cent.
An inventory was carried out in January and it was found the population had been reduced by 35 per cent.
“We were anticipating a reduction in numbers, that was our intention,” said Tara Szkorupa, senior wildlife biologist for the Kootenay/Boundary regions, “but it was getting close to 40 per cent so we decided it was time to close the season.”
The changes affect only the antlerless elk population in parts of the South Trench zone in the Kootenays.
The changes close the following open seasons.
• General open season for antlerless elk in 4-03 Zone X, which includes portions of 4-2 to 4-5 and 4-20 to 4-22, from Sept. 20 to Sept. 30 is closed.
• Senior/youth season for antlerless elk in 4-03 Zone X, which includes portions of 4-2 to 4-5 and 4-20 to 4-22, from Sept. 10 to Sept. 14 is closed.
• Senior/youth season for antlerless elk in 4-26 Zone X, which includes portions of 4-25 and 4-26, from Sept. 10 to Sept. 19 is closed.
Following the Kootenay Elk Management Plan recommendations in 2008 to reduce the antlerless elk population, initially a limited entry hunt was introduced, where hunters have to apply for a tag to harvest the elk. However, the population kept increasing so the season was opened.
“There was still a bag limit, but it meant anyone could harvest one,” said Szkorupa. “The hunt was restricted to low elevations to focus on the non migrating population, as these are the ones that do the most damage.”
The season is now back to limited entry for antlerless elk, and remains open for bull. The early bow season also remains in place for cows
Szkorupa said that although the open season succeeded in reducing numbers, crop degradation and over grazing is still an issue.
“It’s all about balance. Next year we will be looking at other possibilities – maybe replacing the open season with bow hunting or other limited entry hunting. We have lots of different tools we can try.”
Around 400 cow elk are harvested in the South Trench every season.
“That’s the portion of the population that has more of an impact on population trends,” she said.
Population surveys conducted in January 2013 estimate there are 7,509 elk in the South Trench area. The 2008 population for elk in the South Trench was estimated at 11,580.
The online version of the Hunting and Trapping Synopsis has been updated with the changes at www.env.gov.bc.ca/fw/wildlife/hunting/regulations/.