In British Columbia, Roosevelt elk (Cervus elaphus roosevelti) are blue listed (vulnerable, of special concern). Although populations are healthy on Vancouver Island, in the southern mainland nearly all Roosevelt elk populations were decimated due to over hunting and human habitation by the early 1900’s.
Hunters were instrumental in the effort to begin restoring the elk populations to their historic range by assisting with the capture and relocation of Roosevelt elk from Vancouver Island to the Sechelt Peninsula in 1987 and 1993. This was very successful and led to the establishment of the Lower Mainland Roosevelt Elk Recovery Project (LMRERP) in 2000 due to elk confrontations along the urban fringe of the Sunshine Coast and the wish to re-establish Roosevelt elk in the Lower Mainland, which once was a prosperous habitat for the species.
As the largest ungulate in their range, Roosevelt elk serve an important ecological role as prey for top predators and as large browsers that influence plant phenology and biodiversity in their habitats. Roosevelt elk are important to First Nations, who are keenly interested in expanding their traditional use of the species. Resident hunters submit more than 15,000 applications annually for approximately 300 hunting opportunities. Guided hunts for non-resident hunters are in high demand and provide a high return to guide outfitters. Roosevelt elk are also highly sought after for wildlife viewing. These uses generate economic benefits to communities, regions and the province.
Through ongoing financial support from organizations such as the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation, this project has achieved a significant increase in the number of elk on the South Coast. Of the 25 wilderness areas identified as candidates for Roosevelt reintroduction in 2000, 19 have been successfully repopulated. By transporting elk from nuisance herds on the Sunshine Coast to these prime habitat areas, the lower mainland Roosevelt population has grown from an estimated 315 animals in 2000 to approximately 1,600 individuals in 2015, an increase of more than 500%.
The Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation is a non-profit charitable foundation which came into existence because its major contributors (hunters, anglers, trappers, and guide-outfitters via a surcharge on licenses) were willing to pay for conservation work above and beyond that expected by government for basic management of wildlife and fish resources. HCTF strives to make a difference by funding conservation projects and by educating and engaging the public about BC’s natural assets.
Work continues to relocate nuisance Roosevelt elk on Vancouver Island and the Sunshine Coast to appropriate habitats in the southern mainland with the help of First Nations and other stakeholders. To track the success of these new populations, GPS collaring has been strategically implemented on some animals to provide real time information about locations and habitat use. Working to restore the iconic Roosevelt to its former range is an initiative the hunters of British Columbia can be proud to support.
Visit the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation Website at www.hctf.ca