The Situation Room – If hunts allowed in Elk Island National Park, open it to the public

Mac Olsen
The elk herd in Elk Island National Park is bursting at the seams, with the possibility that hunting will be required to thin their numbers.

If that becomes the case, then it is only fitting that it should be open to the public.

Elk Island National Park is located 50 km east of Edmonton.

Scott Leitch of the Edmonton Sun had a story about this issue last week. The herd has reached a population of 611 in the park, “with the northern portion home to about 200 more elk than the high end of its recommended range,” according to the report.

“If (the population) is too high, and it is now, that can have a huge impact on the habitat,” said Colleen Arnison, a resouce management officer with the park.

The park’s forest and grasslands are being hurt by the booming herd, she added.

“That’s why we need to control them. Not removing them will have a larger impact overall on their health, especially in disease which will be able to move through the population a lot quicker if we don’t manage them and keep them at a sustainable level.”

The story also says hunts could be among the options, which would include allowing regional indigenous groups and the public to participate.

The story adds, “jump rails” were part of that park between 1987 and 1991. But they were taken down after some bison escaped.

I’m certainly open to indigenous groups being allowed to participate in such hunts. They have as much right to harvest the elk as other hunters.

But hunters like myself deserve to have the opportunity to harvest elk in Elk Island National Park as well. A public hunt should be by draw, just like the ones for Canadian Forces Base Wainright.

Public hunts have been allowed at that base for over 10 years and I did it a couple of years ago.

Chronic Wasting Disease has been found in deer there. During every hunt, provincial biologists take tissue samples from harvested animals to confirm CWD’s presence.

I wouldn’t want to see the elk herds in Elk Island National Park become vulnerable to CWD or other diseases.

So, hunting in Elk Island National Park would be beneficial to reduce the risk.

I will add a qualifier regarding hunts in Elk Island National Park. Hunting should only be considered as an absolute last resort. National public parks are meant to show nature at its most serene and for the protection of animal and plant species.

However, one thing I would not condone is increasing or adding a wolf population for that park. Canadian-born wolves were introduced into Yellowstone National Park in the U.S. in 1995. That wolf population increased to the point where it decimated the elk herd. So we don’t need a repeat of that scenario in our national parks.

Elk Island officials were to meet with the public in Edmonton on June 1, to discuss the elk population issue.

Whatever came out of those discussions, I hope that it will be part of a beneficial plan for the elk herds and the public.

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