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Elk poaching cases spark local concern

The conservation office is seeking the public's assistance to help solve two recent cases of elk poaching on the Sunshine Coast.

The conservation office is seeking the public's assistance to help solve two recent cases of elk poaching on the Sunshine Coast. Conservation officer Dan Aikenhead said two separate incidents in relation to elk being shot out of season occurred during the month of February. A member of the public contacted the conservation office after stumbling upon the remains of a bull elk on the Halfmoon Bay-Carlson forest service road on Feb. 16.

"Upon investigation I found a gut pile and the head of a bull elk with its antlers removed," Aikenhead said. On Feb. 24, Aikenhead received another public report about the discovery of elk remains. He said it appears that the cow elk was not shot at that location, because only the hide and head of the elk were found.

"This is a serious concern," Aikenhead said. "We don't have a lot of elk here, and we are in the process of trying to re-establish them on the Sunshine Coast."

Darryl Reynolds, eco-systems biologist with the Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection, said the elk population was wiped out on the Sunshine Coast during the 1800s. "Many people have worked hard to re-establish them on the Coast," Reynolds said. "We relocated 22 elk from Vancouver Island between 1987 to 1989. They have done well."

The Sechelt peninsula hosts the largest elk population on the Sunshine Coast, with approximately 200 elk living in that area. Reynolds says the overall elk population on the Coast is quite low and there are many ongoing efforts to try and build it back up again.

"We've been trapping nuisance elk and relocating them elsewhere on the Coast," Reynolds said. "The Rod and Gun Club have being helpful in this effort by providing us with traps and bait."

Reynolds said local sportsmen are concerned about elk poaching because they have been waiting for their opportunity to hunt elk. Approximately 1,000 local residents enter into a draw for the 10 elk tags that are issued for the Sechelt Peninsula each year. "The demand is really high," Reynolds said. The licence is valid only from Sept. 20 to Nov. 30 and is restricted to one bull elk. Reynolds said only 10 per cent of the bull elk population is eliminated during hunting season.

Reynolds is not sure if both cases of elk poaching are related but says the elk were most likely killed for their meat. He believes the bull elk's antlers are being used as trophys. "I hope we can solve these cases," Reynolds said. "It's a small community. All it takes is one person bragging about their kill. Hopefully somebody will be able to provide us with information."

Hunting out of season is an offence that lies under the Wildlife Act and, depending on the case, it can sometimes carry the maximum penalty that includes a $50,000 fine and/or six months of imprisonment. "We would have to look at the circumstances," Aikenhead said.

If you have any information regarding incidents of elk poaching, please contact the conservation service at 1-800-663-9453.