Earlier this week, the Vancouver Sun reported that Roosevelt elk have been spotted in the Lower Mainland several times this summer along the Lougheed Highway near Maple Ridge’s Kanaka Creek Regional Park.
While the presence of wildlife so close to a heavily populated area could be problematic, it’s an encouraging indication that efforts to repopulate select watersheds in southwest B.C. are working. In Canada the species, which is provincially blue-listed as a species of special concern, is found only in the southwest corner of the province and on Vancouver Island. Hunting, with the added challenges of human settlement and habitat change, decimated the population decades ago.
Since 1987, provincial biologists have moved hundreds of elk, including, as the Vancouver Sun notes, 23 elk to the upper Pitt watershed in 2004/05 and 20 to the Stave Lake area in 2006/07. The elk spotted recently are thought to have migrated down from one of those two locations.
For “Operation elk” in the Fall 2012 issue of British Columbia Magazine, writer Larry Pynn joined biologists as they captured and then released elk in remote areas.
“It’s heart-warming to see the return of elk to the Lower Mainland a century or so after they were shot out,” Pynn says about the latest sightings. “But it is also chilling, given the hazards the elk face from today’s humanity, numbering more than two million in Metro Vancouver. The safest thing they could do is look long and hard at the traffic on Lougheed Highway, and head for the hills–this time for good.”
Watch Pynn’s video footage of elk being released in the Brem River area below.