British Columbia

Hunters to cull elk on Peace farms

Hunters and farmers in the Peace River District will be working together this fall to control deer and elk populations as part of a B.C. Ministry of Environment pilot project.

Pilot project will allow hunting on private land

Hunters and farmers in the Peace River District will be working together this fall to control deer and elk populations as part of a B.C. Ministry of Environment pilot project.

The ministry claims the pilot is a win-win situation for both the hunting and agricultural industries in reducing the number of crop-munching ungulates and attracting more hunters.

"We're trying to work co-operatively with the producers of the area as we recognize they are experiencing significant [crop] losses, and at the same time we are working with hunting groups to create opportunities and allow the hunters to help mitigate the problem," said Jeff Morgan, speaking for the Ministry of Environment about the project in Fort St. John on Thursday.

The only similar project in B.C. took place in 2006 in the East Kootenays, where 22 hunters were allowed access to nine sections of private land, leading to the harvest of 17 elk.

Hunters chosen to participate were required to sign a waiver and code of ethics agreement to enter the private land.

Morgan said the 2006 project succeeded in controlling a resident population of elk that was encroaching on farmland.

"I think we demonstrated that if we adopted this kind of a program on a more widespread basis we might even be more effective at reducing the population."

But one Peace River Regional District director said the project places an extra burden on farmers, who not only have to keep an eye on their land but also have to take time to explain the area.

"The problem with [the pilot project] is that it kind of puts the onus back on the private landowners to be the ones that police [hunting practices], and the landowner still has to take time out of his day to familiarize the incoming hunters with the area," Tim Caton said.

However, Caton added that he supports the pilot, as it's an initiative that will help control the amount of problem deer and elk.

Landowner participation in the pilot is voluntary, and while the participants are not yet known, Morgan said the ministry has targeted certain areas of the Peace.

The pilot also aims to attract hunters from larger cities to the Peace.

Through proposed changes to the Wildlife Act, the Ministry of Environment hopes to boost the number of active hunters in the province by 20,000 in coming years.

"From the hunters' perspective, if they are going to make the investment and drive to the Peace, it's peace of mind for these individuals to know that they have reserved a spot so when they get up there they know they'll have some good hunting opportunities," Morgan said.

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