Letter to the Editor

Inflexible laws allow elk to thrive Alan Young’s farm isn’t the only farm contributing to the growth of the Takhini wild elk herd.

Inflexible laws

allow elk to thrive

Alan Young’s farm isn’t the only farm contributing to the growth of the Takhini wild elk herd.

The Takhini elk herd has been making its way from farm to farm throughout the Takhini valley for the past couple of years.

I would like to set the record straight and clarify some comments made by a regional biologist by the name of Rob Florkiewicz in the February 2 Yukon News.

The comment: “Most of the land in the Takhini Valley has only been disposed of in the last five to 10 years, and when it was sold, it was pretty clear there was wildlife in the area, possibly elk.”

Florkiewicz, I hope your science is better than your geography. Your imprecise generalization of the land-disposition period serves little purpose.

I have lived on my farm in the Takhini Valley for more than 10 years, and can state with some degree of confidence that most of the land in the Takhini Valley has been under private ownership, or some sort of legal tenure, for much more than five or 10 years.

Many of the lots have been homesteaded since the ‘60s and early ‘70s and the bulk of the large agricultural parcels were disposed of through agreement for sale in the mid ‘80s, back when no wild elk were seen in the area at all.

Actually, the wild population did not start to show up until the past couple of years.

The Environment department (game branch) has realized the potential problem for a couple of years, but “the game department bureaucrats” refuse to acknowledge or accept responsibility and provide a solution.

Another comment made by our biologist, whom you’d expect to know the facts: “The elk used to spend more time on the far side of the Takhini River, but LaPrairie Ranch has been expanding its fencing to pasture its bison. The fencing excludes the elk, and may have contributed to their movement across the river.”

Come on, the farm the February 2 story focussed on is kilometres away from the LaPrairie Ranch with thousands of square kilometers of free-range territory between for the non-indigenous “not native to Yukon” elk herd.

You mean to tell me that when a farmer fences a few acres, they are going to push animals into another farmer’s field thousands of square kilometres away? Not likely. But you’re the biologist.

Another comment from our biologist: “And in the last six years, the herd has really taken off. We’re not sure why, he added.”

Well, just maybe the recent boom in agricultural produce and forage production may have something to do with it.

Wolves don’t hang around human-inhabited places much. So, if we eliminate all natural predators of the elk, feed them grain and hay and do not run them off — it is illegal because they are a protected species — because some bureaucrat doesn’t want to do anything more than look at them, what do you think is going to happen?

More comments: “Permitting hunting in the Takhini Valley, with its huge farm properties and private residences, is questionable…”

Then why do we have a deer draw for limited hunts, and hunting on farms permitted with owner consent?

And with so-called huge farm properties, where the elk are the biggest problem, you would think a person could shoot an elk with some degree of safety.

Another comment: “Do you want to have hunting in that area when you have this amazing wildlife-viewing opportunity to see, quite close?”

Why did the government of Yukon buy the Yukon Wildlife Preserve?

I seem to remember it was for wildlife viewing and educational purposes. How close do you want to be when viewing these massive animals with horns while driving down the highway? Do you want them on the front hood of your car?

It is not a matter of if, but when someone or someone’s family is killed by running into one of these elk on the highway.

A long-term solution for these animals’ multiplication and grazing or feeding locations must be put in place — and soon.

The elk are currently protected under the Yukon Wildlife Act. I assume this was done way back when they were first introduced and the numbers were very low.

I have endured elk damage in the thousands of dollars over the past couple of years, and it’s not because I neglect to care for my crops or don’t have adequate protection.

My farm is fenced throughout with countless kilometres of treated posts and wire. My crops are removed following harvest and I still have elk tearing down my fencing, grazing in my fields and in my yard for a good portion of the year.

I even hit one in my driveway once while coming home from dropping my kids off at the school bus.

What we have right now is a law without any concessions. The elk were brought into this territory by government, made a protected species, and 40 years later when farmers are feeding them because our fences aren’t three metres tall to keep them out, it’s our fault.

If we do anything about it, we’re criminals under the wildlife act. Where is the justice?

I’m not a biologist, but I am many other things including a game “elk” farmer. I think I probably know a little bit about them.

My guess is that if the government were to do as it did with deer and bison and offer a limited draw for hunting, and if the hunting were restricted to problem animals or animals in sensitive areas (animals posing highway safety concerns or farm menaces), there would be a shift in grazing locations.

They would respond the same as deer and bison. When the hunting commences, they find alternative range and move back.

In the past, farmers have been accused of restricting wildlife passage through the construction of their fencing.

I know from experience that a conventional three-strand fence does not restrict the passage of wildlife.

What does restrict wildlife passage is high-quality game fencing 2.4 metres in height, and this is what Environment’s deputy minister Kelvin Leary has suggested, in writing, that I put around the perimeter of my more than 160 hectares to keep the elk out — at $5 per running foot.

In one breath, you tell us (farmers) to put up game fencing, then you turn around and tell us that game fencing restricts wildlife movement, something we want to happen to some extent.

Please make up your mind.

If the department of Environment does feel that game-fencing all farmland to keep out their wildlife is the practical solution, then would the government be so inclined to contribute towards the cost of this infrastructure?

This situation is not at all like the southern provinces where elk are a native species; remember the government brought them here, all 148 of them.

I don’t believe the farmers are the cause of this issue and, if we are, I guess in order not to be, we should stop growing things.

All the farmers I know like wildlife and do not want to restrict the passage of the odd deer, moose or elk.

Farmers that I have spoken with would like to contribute to a long-term solution rather than avoid or deny the present issues and future implications if nothing is done.

Department of Environment, let’s see if we can all work together with a collaborative effort to come up with practical solutions and resolve this issue.

 

Wayne Grove

ElDorado Game Ranch