THUNDER BAY – Thunder Bay Atikokan MPP Bill Mauro was up during Question Period in the Ontario Legislature on Tuesday. Mr. Mauro was seeking information from the Minister of Natural Resources on the status of elk in Ontario.
Here is the transcript from Queen’s Park:
Mr. Bill Mauro: My question is for the Minister of Natural Resources. Until the late 1990s, elk were an extirpated species in Ontario, one that was not found in the province but still found elsewhere. It’s my understanding that, starting in 1998, your ministry, with partners around the province, introduced elk from Elk Island National Park in Alberta to four locations around the province.
The program is now 10 years old and some elk populations have begun to thrive to the point that there has been conflict between elk and humans, specifically in the agricultural community. I know that in some areas of the province, especially, I’m told, in the Bancroft area, the problem has become quite acute.
What is the status of the repatriated elk herds and how is your ministry responding to the incidence of human-elk conflict?
Hon. Linda Jeffrey: I want to thank the honourable member from Thunder Bay-Atikokan for the question. The elk restoration program is something that all Ontarians should be proud of. It represents a success story and an example of what conservationists, hunters and the government can do when we all work together.
The four sites where elk have been reintroduced around the province have been seeing differing trends of population growth, and the herd around Bancroft has seen some population growth. That being said, the best estimate of the total population in the province is just over 700, compared to the hundreds and thousands of deer in Ontario.
The honourable member is correct to point out that the emerging success of the elk restoration program has come with a new set of challenges. Ontarians are pleased that elk have begun to establish themselves in the province. However, they’ve become a nuisance, especially in the agricultural sector.
The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Supplementary?
Mr. Bill Mauro: My question is once again for the Minister of Natural Resources. It appears that the unintended consequence of the success of the elk reintroduction program is difficulties for farmers and landowners in some areas of the elk range.
Elk are an important part of Ontario’s biodiversity, a natural resource to be managed sustainably for the enjoyment of all. That being said, how did the government hear of this problem, and is the government listening to the people on the ground? What steps, if any, has the government taken to address the concerns of farmers while encouraging the further growth of the elk population?
Hon. Linda Jeffrey: The honourable member is correct: When farmers are experiencing crop damage, clearly we need to work with them to find a community-based solution.
I’ve spoken about this issue with a number of conservation groups, the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters, affected farmers and ministry scientists. The Ministry of Natural Resources has been working with farmers in the Bancroft area to assist them in finding constructive elk control techniques. We’re also completing the first stage of public consultations on the draft elk management plan. The plan is consistent with the direction set out in the cervid ecological framework and explores all options for habitat requirements, population sustainability and managing human-elk conflict.
I look forward to reporting further on this matter to my colleagues here and to the people of Ontario.