Some hunters have called it an elk slaughter, others a genocide but whatever description you choose, the results of the open season on bull elk have resulted in a lot of kills, a lot less elk and a lot of local hunters who are pissed off at the government regulation, but taking full advantage of it.
After the B.C. Ministry of Environment changed the current regulation from a limited-entry hunt to general open season on six-point elk or better, hunters from across B.C. flocked to the West Kootenay for the harvest and First Nations hunters from the Okanagan suddenly claimed it as their traditional hunting grounds.
Local hunters, hunting groups, land owners and politicians all cried foul, blaming the ministry for unsound conservation practices based on little or no science.
In previous years, the ministry regulated the hunt, issuing 138 limited-entry licences for the West Kootenay. Given even a 60 per cent success rate, the number of elk taken would have paled in comparison to the over 200 estimated this year by local hunters.
Unfortunately, there is no way to tell exactly how many were killed in the end. The ministry did not require hunters to report their kills, so how it intends to identify populations for future conservation is beyond the Trail Wildlife Association.
“There is no way of keeping track, and that’s irresponsible as far as we’re concerned,” said chair Rick Fillmore.
“The harvest was substantial and we’re going to take the Ministry of Environment to task for it.”
The ministry claims that healthy elk populations justify the move and, backed by such lobby groups as the B.C. Wildlife Federation and the Kootenay Wildlife Association and the prospect of economic benefits, made the change regardless of local concerns.
Taking huge mature animals out of the system — which are the efficient breeders — will affect current and future populations, reducing both the numbers and health of the herd, Fillmore suggested.
Indeed, the ministry is ultimately responsible for elk conservation, restoration and habitat stewardship, but if government makes a stupid decision (as it does on occasion) does that mean all hunters should exploit it?
At what point should hunters take responsibility for conservation efforts?
While it is easy and convenient to blame irresponsible government, individuals and wildlife organizations need to stand up and take ownership of conservation priorities. Simply because government allows it, does that mean every hunter in B.C. is entitled to a West Kootenay elk?
Local hunters, whether they like it or not, have a decided advantage over visiting ones and should be held to a higher accountability. Every hunter who harvested an elk contributed to the slaughter and like it or not are complicit in whatever negative effects it has on future regulations and health of the West Kootenay herd.
An editorial from the Trail, B.C., Daily Times.