WHEREAS Alberta’s elk populations are increasing rapidly due to current wildlife management policies; and
WHEREAS increased elk populations within primarily agricultural areas has impacted agricultural producers through damage to hay land, pasture, silage crops and other crops; and
WHEREAS the introduction of an antlerless elk season in many of Alberta’s wildlife management units was intended to assist in elk population control;
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Rural Municipalities of Alberta (RMA) request that the Government of Alberta increase the number of antlerless elk draw seasons to a minimum of two per wildlife management unit (WMU) located within agricultural areas; and
FURTHER BE IT RESOLVED that RMA request that the Government of Alberta increase the number of antlerless elk tags allocated within WMUs that are located within agricultural areas to compensate for poor hunter harvest success.
Wildlife Management Unit (WMU) 334 is comprised of portions of Leduc County, Brazeau County, and Yellowhead County. The eastern portion of this WMU is primarily agricultural land with a high proportion of livestock operations, who rely on hay land and silage crops (such as corn) to provide winter feed for their cattle herds. Over the past three years, several herds of non-migrating elk have become established within WMU 334. Sightings of at least two separate herds of eighty elk and two herds of forty are common within the area. These elk have been damaging both standing and stockpiled forages that are intended for cattle feed.
Elk in the area have become especially damaging to corn crops that are intended as winter grazing for the cattle. While there are techniques for preventing and mitigating ungulate damage, such as deterrent, intercept feed and permanent fencing, these techniques are typically not effective/economical when dealing with large areas, such as entire fields.
The introduction of an antlerless elk season is believed to assist in the control of elk populations by removing female elk from the population. Tags are allocated within each WMU based on population numbers. This allocation assumes that with a 100% success rate of harvest, population numbers will be manageable. However, based on Alberta Environment and Parks’ (AEP) Hunter Harvest Report, hunter success rates for elk only exceeded 50% in one WMU, and was only 11% in specifically for WMU 334.
AEP has confirmed that there has not been a specific survey for elk conducted within WMU 334, and the last aerial survey that was flown for other ungulate species was in January 2016. However, AEP had allocated 20 antlerless tags for WMU 334 in 2019 and 20 in 2020. According to the 2019 Hunter Harvest Report in 2019, five female elk and two young elk were harvested within the WMU, a success rate of 35%. Although this is a higher success rate than is recorded on the estimated resident harvest for elk, it is not a high enough success rate to ensure populations are managed.
By increasing the number of antlerless hunting seasons within WMUs where agriculture is a significant operation, the season in which elk can be hunted within these WMU’s can be extended, and it is believed that the hunter harvest success rate can be increased. By increasing the number of antlerless tags available in these unit areas, elk populations will be more accurately managed even with a less than ideal hunter harvest rate.
Past resolutions have been endorsed by members of the Rural Municipalities of Alberta specifically related to elk population control, although there are no active resolutions currently.
RMA has no active resolutions directly related to this issue.