Wild elk have been making a comeback in Ontario since being re-introduced in the early 2000 and more and more of them have been spotted east of Ottawa. Some wildlife enthusiasts are pleased to see the elk, but some farmers say they're a nuisance.
The elk spotted in the Clarence-Rockland area in recent years are likely from a herd of 170 elk re-introduced to the Bancroft area in 2000 and 2001, according to Mike Allan, a wildlife research technician for the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry.
Since then, their population has grown and some of them have dispersed to new territory.
"The population in Bancroft grew quite quickly. It went from the 120 animals that we released to anywhere around ... 297 to 560 animals (in 2014) in the Bancroft area. So that's quite a significant increase from the original release back in 2000 and 2001," Allan said.
"Certainly animals move all the time to and from places, so the fact that elk have moved over that way just means that we have to manage them on the landscape as part of our elk management plan."
While overpopulation is not a concern, Allan said some residents and farmers have reported issues such as injuries to farmed elk, damaged fencing and damaged trees.
"Generally the response is fairly positive, they're happy to see them, but in some instances yes, there's maybe a bull in the farmyard that may be interested in the cows, and because he has no other elk around he may be trying to socialize with those animals. And then if it's the rut period when he's trying to breed, he may interfere with the herd and possibly cause some damage to an animal with his antlers," Allan said.
In those instances, hunting and other methods are used to help landowners deal with "problem animals," Allan said.
Valerie Everson, who runs a farm on Highway 17 between Clarence-Rockland and Wendover, said she's seen up to 10 to 15 elk in her area in recent years.
"They've walked through some fences and are scratching trees. We have certainly, in the spring, had to walk around and repair certain fence lines at places where they've knocked them down, just pushed through the fence," Everson said.
"And it's not a huge nuisance, but I like to do a lot of cross-country skiing and they also seem to enjoy the trails that I've made, so when they're punching big holes in my trails, that makes it a little less pleasant for my skiing, but that's not really a big concern."
Not far from Everson's farm, Ken Dalrymple said neighbours have reported evidence of about 15 to 18 elk in the area.
"The farmer south of my farm here had seen them in the spring in fairly large groups in the field once the snow goes. And it was about three years ago that I had a trail camera and I had eight cows and calves in one picture, and other pictures had bulls and that," he said.
"Everybody seems to be excited to see them around, and they don't seem to do much damage, really."