Shorten West Kootenay Bull Elk General Open Season

Regulation Number: 
2020-04-14
Status: 
Decided
Region: 
Region 4 - Kootenay
MU: 
4-8
4-9
4-14
4-15
4-16
4-17
4-18
4-19
4-27
4-28
4-29
4-30
4-31
4-32
4-33
4-37
4-38
Regulation Type: 
General Open Season
Species: 
Elk
Closing Date: 
January 19, 2020 at midnight
Decision Statement: 

This regulation was approved as proposed and is included in the 2020-2022 Hunting and Trapping Regulations Synopsis.

Current Regulations: 

ELK

4-1 to 4-9, 4-14 to 4-38, 4-40

6 Point Bulls

Sept 10 - Oct 20

Proposed Regulations: 

ELK

4-1 to 4-7, 4-20 to 4-26, 4-34 to 4-36, 4-40

6 Point Bulls

Sept 10 - Oct 20

ELK

4-8, 4-9, 4-14 to 4-19, 4-27 to 4-33, 4-37, 4-38

6 Point Bulls

Sept 10 - Oct 5

Rationale: 

The West Kootenay Bull elk 6-point General Open Season has provided a significant amount of hunting opportunity to BC residents, and has provided a higher harvest than was achieved during the LEH. However, recent surveys indicate that bull:cow ratios are beginning to drop below the ministry objective of 20 bulls:100 cows (19 bulls: 100 cows) with very few 6-point bulls surviving through the hunting season (three 6pt bulls:100 cows).

Using population estimates developed in the 2010-2014 Kootenay Elk Management Plan, preliminary population modelling indicates that 6-point bull elk are being harvested at a rate approximately 25% higher than what would be sustainable. Bull elk in the West Kootenay region appear to reach 6-point size more rapidly than in other areas of BC, resulting in a higher proportion of the bull cohort being available for harvest under the 6-point GOS regulation. In five years of West Kootenay elk composition surveys, the ratio of <6-point bulls:100 cows has averaged 18:100, indicating that some 6 point bulls must survive through the hunting season if bull ratios are to be met. Harvest levels should therefore be adjusted in order to improve survival of 6-point bulls and ensure a portion survive the hunting season.

Under the current season schedule of September 10 – October 20, approximately 25% of the bull harvest occurs after October 5. Shortening the season to this date would reduce harvest levels enough to maintain the current bull:cow ratio and provide some opportunity for bull escapement through the hunting season. Providing this escapement will 1) help meet ministry bull:cow ratio objectives, 2) continue to provide significant hunting opportunity, and 3) provide opportunity for a percentage of the bull cohort to reach maturity and the remarkable size for which the West Kootenay is known.

Elk in the West Kootenays have been monitored using winter composition surveys since the opening of the GOS (2011, 2012, 2013, 2017 2019). These surveys consist of surveying known areas of elk wintering range and classifying all observed animals as cows, calves, raghorn bull (<6 points) and 6-Point bull (>= 6 points on one side). Bull:cow ratios have declined in every year of these surveys from a high of 45 bulls:100 cows in 2011 to a current low of 19 bulls:100 cows in 2019. This decline is driven by the substantial decrease in the number of 6-point bulls:100 cows, which aligns with expectations from current harvest levels.

West Kootenay Elk Composition Survey:

  • Bull:cow ratios were variable between areas but averaged below 20 bulls:100 cows
  • Moderate to high calf productivity indicates bull ratios are not negatively affecting recruitment.
  • Bull ratios have declined since 2011, but calf ratios have remained stable and may be showing an improving trend.
  • Local knowledge indicates elk populations have declined over the past decade, further reducing the number of bulls available for harvest.

Year

Calves:100 Cows

Bulls:100 Cows

≥6-pt:100 Cows

2011

21-28 (17-34)

42-58 (33-70)

26 (16-36)

2012

25 (23-27)

35 (24-46)

15 (8-22)

2013

26 (22-29)

31 (23-38)

14 (9-19)

2017

32 (29-35)

24 (20-27)

7 (5-8)

2019

33 (28-38)

19 (11-27)

3 (1-6)

West Kootenay Bull Harvest

  • Approximately 25% of the 6-point bull harvest occurs after October 5th
  • A 2014 public opinion survey showed the majority (76%) of respondents preferred the option to manage for higher opportunity for bull hunting (e.g., 6-point or better General Open), while only 24% preferred the option to manage for trophy bulls (e.g., through Limited Entry Hunt)