Hank Shelley

Column: Elk moving up into Shuswap area

Of all the big game animals hunted in B.C., elk rank the highest sought after.

But numbers are down, raising concern. There is intense unregulated hunting, high predator numbers, unseasonable weather and snow conditions.

He was a massive bull elk. Actually a record-book bull. Floating just off the rocky shore at Shelter Bay down Highway #23 south of Revelstoke. As the swirling mist of early morning lifted, a lone figure waded out to try and take the antlers off.

Unbeknownst to the poacher, he was being videotaped by a long-time resident, who had a cabin up the road.

In turn, conservation officers from Nelson dealt with the case. The set of antlers did a tour of the province and U.S., before being returned to be placed above the door at Revelstoke’s community centre.

While logging in the Beaton area many years ago, with then brother-in-law Ivan, we saw and heard elk bugling many times come fall. These animals had migrated from the Duncan dam region, into the Shelter Bay, Crawford Creek, Akolkollex drainage.

The herd built up. There was a hunting season. Then wolves have just about decimated the herds.

Okanagan/Shuswap elk: From our goose hunting corn field blind above White Lake Dairy, the cow elk pranced out, and munched down a corn cob. Where the heck she came from, no one knows. There has been a small herd in the Malakwa area for some time, and a growing herd of elk in Deep Creek. Not a mystery.

There has been elk on Little White Mountain east of Kelowna,(the same herd of 120 seen on CHBC news heading to a Kelowna orchard recently) for many years.

Our elk originated from a herd in Naramata, near Penticton, which over time, migrated up Wild Horse canyon, across from Squally point on Okanagan lake, then above Joe Rich,below Big White, across Aberdeen Plateau, Lumby, through Trinity Valley to Fortune Creek at Enderby.

In June 2000, I received a call at the DFO office, from a Splatsin band member, regarding a mature bull, a yearling bull, two cows, and a calf at the marsh in Fortune Creek. All band members where notified to leave the animal alone. Since that time, the herd has tripled in size. There are some in Deep Creek and another now migrating toward Mt Ida. Previous wildfires have generated excellent browse/habitat conditions both from the Okanagan Park fire (August 2003), and the Salmon Arm wildfire, on Mt. Ida. Elk have been seen the last four years, near the ball park-fire hall at Silver creek. A 5-point bull was shot illegally, and was investigated, by Vernon CO’s.

Overall, if all parties including aboriginal hunters want to have a future stake in all the above elk herds well being, MOE biologists/BC Wildlife Federation, fish wildlife club members and First Nations will have to band together, to determine harvest levels, habitat loss, recruitment for “all,” not just one group, who can hunt freely, no license fees conservation concerns, seasonal restrictions and bag limits.

Fishing Report: Only report is for Big Shuswap Lake, off Murdock Point. Few salmon fry showing yet but angling has been good, with trolled bucktails and small spoons. One on top, one deep. The future looks bright for great angling on all lakes soon. Tight lines and straight shootin!

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