Good fences make good neighbours

Hunting all the elk to protect farms is not a good solution

The Yukon Fish & Game Association has been an active stakeholder in elk management in the Yukon since elk were re-introduced here beginning in 1951. The YFGA participated in the 2008 update of the elk management plan and since then has participated as a stakeholder on Envrionment Yukon’s elk management working group. The YFGA understands and is aware of the impacts elk have on crops, and we work cooperatively with government and farmers to resolve this challenging and important issue.

The Association is firmly committed to ensure that elk herds are sustainably managed consistent with commitments in the current elk management plan for elk which calls for a “healthy and viable population of free ranging elk in Yukon.”

Many Yukoners are now familiar with conflict between agricultural interests and elk. As winter approaches the issue heats up with calls from landowners and others encouraging the harvest of elk and, in some cases, suggesting that killing all the elk might be a good idea. The YFGA would like to bring some important points forward for consideration:

In the short term, the YFGA supports the YG-managed elk conflict hunt, as long as the number of elk killed is limited, in order to help local farmers. However, we feel strongly that the elk conflict hunt is not going to meet farmers’ needs over the longer term and sustain a viable elk herd. Non-lethal solutions will be required.

Elk in the Yukon pre-date the development of most of the farmland that exists in the territory. Elk were on the land first, and the public, resource managers and landowners, as stewards of the land, have a shared responsibility to ensure that agricultural operations and actions taken are sustainable and maintain publicly-owned wildlife resources.

The YFGA feels caution is required when authorizing the harvest of wildlife just to protect commercial interests. This may set a dangerous precedent. Allowing wildlife populations to be reduced by one industry for its sole benefit could allow another interest to justify seeking further herd reductions.

Elk can and do damage crops. The good news is that there are mitigation strategies to minimize damage and reduce conflicts. Many of the non-lethal strategies for crop protections were developed after elk were nearly eliminated across North America in the early 1900s.

The YFGA supports agriculture development and farming in the Yukon, but we need crop protection that does not include actions that threaten the small, unique and valued elk population in the Yukon.

Elk are part of the landscape. Elk are a public resource. Elk are game animals. For all these reasons, we need to work together to keep both elk and farming in Yukon. YFGA is committed to helping achieve a workable, durable solution.

We might all benefit greatly by reading the poem “Mending Walls” by Robert Frost and adopting his advice: “good fences make good neighbors.”

Charles Shewen, President

Yukon Fish & Game Association

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