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Cobble Hill elk kill targets farm invaders

The provincial government has licensed the hunting of 16 elk in the Cowichan area this fall. - Andrew Leong/file
The provincial government has licensed the hunting of 16 elk in the Cowichan area this fall.
— image credit: Andrew Leong/file

If you're going to shoot elk, you may as well take aim at the ones making a nuisance of themselves.

That's the philosophy behind a hunt ongoing in the Cobble Hill region that has angered at least one area resident.

The provincial government typically grants a handful of hunting licenses each year for Cowichan-area elk to Cowichan Tribes and a smaller number to a randomly selected group of hunters. This year, those licenses number 11 and five respectively, up one from last year in each category.

But 10 of those 16 tags come with a caveat: the animals should be taken from the herd that frequents the Dougan Lake valley.

According to Brennan Clarke, a spokesperson with the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, that is in response to the complaints of an area farmer about elk damaging corn and grass.

"At least one farmer in the Dougan Lake area has reported significant crop depredation as a result of elk and has provided opportunities for hunters to access the farm for elk hunting," he said in an email to cowichannewsleader.com. "Farmers who do not have a hunting licence or allocation to harvest elk have the option of inviting a licensed hunters onto their land."

Davel Webster is not impressed. The 22-year area resident said he has watched the herd grow from a dozen animals to about 30.

"I want to see these things protected. They are going to devastate this herd. We've been watching it for years. It's a magnificent herd, absolutely beautiful.

"People are upset about them culling rabbits, for gosh sakes."

Webster said he is not any kind of neighbourhood spokesperson, but many he has spoken to in the area share his concern.

And he doesn't see why bullets and arrows need to be the solution to what is essentially a business issue for the farmer.

"If they are making money on this, they should be putting up a fence."

Clarke said this is a normal hunting opportunity that is being funneled to address a clash between animal and human, not a cull.

"Allocation of elk hunting opportunities and harvest rates can be slightly higher where specific impacts have been identified and where management objectives — first and foremost conservation — indicate this is appropriate," he states. "In this case allocations are slightly higher than might be expected in a similar area without these conflicts.

According to Clarke, there are about 75 elk in the lower Cowichan Valley and no concerns about the herd’s survival.

"Roosevelt elk are not endangered, they are provincially blue-listed as species of special concern, meaning they need special attention/management to ensure their survival."

He said that in the 2011/12 season hunters killed 137 elk on Vancouver Island, 11 of them in the lower Cowichan Valley.

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