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Province receives 'violation reports' of 55 elk deaths in Cowichan Valley over two years

Threats include ‘unregulated hunting,’ human settlement, and excessive logging

The death of Bob the Roosevelt elk, hit by a car last February in Youbou in the Cowichan Valley, prompted an outpouring of public grief for the beloved animal.

But few elk die with such public recognition; more likely, they are found dead on remote gravel backroads, their passing receiving little or no acknowledgment.

Freedom-of-information documents obtained by sixmountains.ca reveal that the provincial Conservation Officer Service received 35 “violation reports” involving the deaths of 55 elk in Cowichan region over the past two years.

The 55 dead elk in 2022-23 included 21 in Lake Cowichan, 11 in Ladysmith, 10 in Duncan, six in Youbou, four in Chemainus, and one each in Cobble Hill, Cowichan Bay, and Nitinat within the Cowichan region.

Officers received the 35 violation reports on the toll-free Report All Poachers and Polluters (RAPP) program hot line. Some cases involved multiple elk deaths.

Of those 35 reports, conservation officers labelled 22 cases as “unsolved,” a category defined as: “An investigation was conducted, and it was determined an offence likely occurred, but to date the case has not been solved.” The other 13 complaints are considered unfounded, involved duplicate reports, did not involve enforcement action, or continue to be investigated.

Additionally, 12 elk cases fell into the category of “dead wildlife” with no violations suspected, including seven thought to have involved motor vehicle accidents, three undetermined, and two death attributed to poor health.

The BC Conservation Data Centre says, in part, that “human settlement, over-harvesting, resource extraction activities, and poaching potentially threaten Roosevelt elk.

“Unregulated hunting is likely the biggest threat on Vancouver Island.”

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Roosevelt elk are named after former US president Theodore Roosevelt and are the largest sub-species of elk in North America. They are found in BC only on Vancouver Island and the Mainland south coast.

Elk from Vancouver Island have been relocated to the Mainland, including three transplants totalling 24 animals to the Sechelt Peninsula from 1987 to 1989, and one transplant of five animals to Powell River in 1994.

The animal’s conservation status provincially is blue-listed, or special concern.

In 2020, 15 elk were found dead in one month at various locations in the Cowichan Valley.

A hunter was fined $5,100 and issued a two-year hunting ban in October 2023 for elk poaching near Chemainus.

And another three elk were found dead in December 2023 near Cowichan Lake.

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Legal hunting of elk is “controlled through limited-entry hunting (for resident hunters), allocations (for guide outfitters), and harvest agreements with First Nations,” according to the data centre.

The province estimates 22 elk are legally killed annually during hunts in limited-entry zones within wildlife management units 104 and 105, which includes much of Cowichan Valley Regional District and north to Nanaimo River and west to Nitinat River.

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If you have information on illegal hunting and fishing, or other environmental offences, call the RAPP hotline at 1-877-952-7277.

Read more about Bob the elk: https://thenarwhal.ca/bob-the-elk-youbou-bc/ .

(sixmountains.ca elk photos from Youbou, North Cowichan.)

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— Larry Pynn, July 1, 2024

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