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Posted: September 24, 2014

Elk problems?

Crop depredation on agricultural land, whether Crown, leased or private hayfields and pastures by Rocky Mountain elk (Cervus elaphus nelsoni), frequently occurs in the South Rocky Mountain Trench (SRMT) of British Columbia.

This problem has increased in recent years as many agricultural land managers have suffered annual devastating financial losses in their crop production.

ElkaversiontherThe elk population surveyed in 2013 in the SRMT has an estimate of 7,697 elk and a significant portion of this population are non-migratory ‘resident’ elk that no longer migrate to high elevations in the spring and instead, seek forage year round in low elevation agricultural land.

Common methods to prevent crop damage by elk and to pressure resident elk to migrate are limiting and problematic. Construction of fences along large areas is cost-prohibitive while lethal management of elk is often viewed as unacceptable by the public.

Aversive conditioning is a relatively new cost-effective and practical method that has potential application on elk in the SRMT.

A literature review on aversive conditioning techniques was conducted by Justin Mufford, third year undergraduate student in the BSc. program and assistant researcher at Thompson Rivers University and by Dr. John Church, Cattle Research Chair and Professor at Thompson Rivers University.

The completion of this review was overseen by: Donna Thornton, Agriculture/Wildlife Specialist and Wildlife Biologist for the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations (FLNRO) in the Kootenay Boundary Region; Faye Street, Chair of Wildlife Committee from the Kootenay Livestock Association (KLA); and Katie Calon, Regional Coordinator of the BC Conservation Foundation.

Based on this review, there are effective and practical aversive conditioning techniques that can potentially be used by land managers in the SRMT to deter elk. Advanced technologies and strategies developed by current researchers also have potential to re-instate migratory behavior in resident elk to further reduce crop depredation.

The results of this review will be presented by Justin Mufford and Dr. John Church on September 25, at 7:30 p.m. at the at the Heritage Inn West Ballroom in Cranbrook.


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