Shiny collars give elk a fighting chance against cars

New radio collars may prove lifesavers to elk from the Takhini Valley herd. In March, Yukon’s Environment department placed highly reflective…

New radio collars may prove lifesavers to elk from the Takhini Valley herd.

In March, Yukon’s Environment department placed highly reflective collars on 18 female elk in the Takhini Valley and Braeburn area.

The radio collars will allow scientists to track the animals, while the reflective covering will show up in headlights and help prevent highway collisions.

“What we’re really excited about is now we have a way, hopefully, that the travelling public will be forewarned a little bit that there are elk using those really well-vegetated road shoulders,” said Phillip Merchant, wildlife technician with the department of Environment.

Merchant estimates that at least six animals from the 200-member Takhini Valley herd are struck and killed by highway traffic each year.

While highway fatalities may be reduced, the elk are now facing a new danger. When placing the collars on the elk, biologists found winter ticks on all 18 animals.

The winter tick does not carry Lyme disease or any other tick diseases that are transmitted to people, said Michelle Oakley, territorial veterinarian.

While not a threat to human health, they can be dangerous to the few moose, which share the same habitat.

“The current risk to moose in the Yukon from winter ticks carried by elk is probably low since the moose numbers are low in the Takhini Valley where the majority of the elk live,” said Oakley.

It’s not yet known just where the winter ticks came from.

Some elk released from captivity in the early 1990s carried winter ticks, but at the time it was believed that ticks could not survive in the territory, said Oakley.

“Warmer weather in recent years may have contributed to increased survival of the ticks,” she said.

“Also, Yukon elk reuse the same spring and fall habitat, which may be amplifying the infestation because in the fall the elk will be picking up the same ticks they dropped in the spring.

“Really though, more work is needed to understand the impact these ticks have on elk and other wildlife.

“That’s why the radio collaring program is so good — because it allows us to study the elk up close while we’re applying the collars.”

Meanwhile, drivers should be on the lookout for sudden bright flashes in the roadside bush.

“It’s a good thing wolves don’t have flashlights,” said Merchant.

Just Posted

Car crashes through Whitehorse school fence

2 people taken to hospital, no kids hurt

Tagish dog rescue owner asks for court order to get rid of dogs to be put on hold

Shelley Cuthbert argued forcing her to get rid of all but two dogs would cause ‘irreparable harm’

Yukon College officially unveils new $3.59M Whitehorse learning space

Innovation Commons designed to let the sunlight in

No vacancy: Whitehorse family spends five months seeking housing

‘I didn’t think it would be this hard’

Bedbug situation in Whitehorse building becoming intolerable, resident says

Gabriel Smarch said he’s been dealing with bedbugs since he moved into his apartment 15 years ago

The week in Yukon mining

Goldcorp re-submits Coffee plans, Mount Nansen sale looms, Kudz Ze Kayah comments open

Painting the past: Kaska artist explores his childhood in new show

‘I used to say I painted and I carved. But now I say it’s through my ancestors.’

Yukon hockey briefs

Dylan Cozens named WHL player of the week

Rain and warm weather makes for interesting Carbon Hill race day

‘I guess we all start getting used to this crazy weather.’

Ice, ice, baby: scaling a frozen Yukon waterfall

‘There’s a really transformative affect with adventure’

Delegate blunt about proposed location of cannabis retail stores

‘Marijuana has had a stigma of being a bad thing’

What does the NDP need to gain power once again?

The party will need to do some soul searching before we head to the polls again

Most Read