Calgary

Parks Canada kills 4 bull elk that 'persistently' entered Banff townsite

Parks Canada's annual elk cull started early this season, after the decision was made to kill four males that were "persistently and consistently" coming into the Banff townsite.

Elks' territorial behaviour was a danger to residents and visitors, Parks Canada officials say

Parks Canada has been doing an annual elk cull for the past decade to help control herd numbers in the Bow Valley. (Rick Price Photography)

Parks Canada's annual elk cull started early this season, after the decision was made to kill four males that were "persistently and consistently" coming into the Banff townsite.

"We're constantly working to haze [elk out of the townsite], to manage them, to force them out into the wildlife corridors around the town," said Bill Hunt, resource conservation manager for Banff.

"It's partially successful, but with some individuals, they are extremely resistant to that, and these four animals showed that behaviour where we'd haze them out of town and literally in a couple of hours they would be back in the residential area again."

The elk were often seen right in the townsite, hanging out around schools and spending time in green spaces. Hunt said Parks Canada was alerted to two incidents where two of the four bulls came into contact with people.

The animals were all tagged, which made it easy for Parks Canada to keep tabs on them.

"Elk rut in the fall and so their behaviour this fall, they were trying to assemble their harems and do all their territorial behaviour right in the townsite, which presented a hazard for residents and visitors," Hunt said.

Annual elk cull

Each year, Parks Canada conducts a census — counting animals in the fall and again in the spring after elk have calved — to get an estimated population for the area.

The annual cull is done to manage the elk herd size within the Bow Valley and has been going on for about a decade. Hunt said and the number of elk eliminated in the cull varies from none to more than 10.

"Typically the culling work happens in January or February each year, but because of the hazard that these four animals were representing we removed them sooner," Hunt said.

Hunt said having the large ungulates roaming the streets is a hazard to visitors and not healthy for the animals themselves, where they can get into food and garbage. 

Prior to Parks Canada implementing the annual cull, Hunt said the elk used to calve within the townsite as a means to hide from predators — which could attract things like bears, cougars and wolves into the community.

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